Standing tall

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A monster of a tornado, at least a half a mile wide and over six miles in length, moved across the center of a Midwest city, leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

It's us, not them. We have joined the ranks of major disaster areas worldwide.

Many of us cannot even see the scenes on TV because we have no TV or our cable is down or the power is off. Loved ones around the world call and describe a bigger picture than we can see from our homes or offices. If, that is, we have a home or office left standing.

In less than 30 minutes late Sunday afternoon, 30 percent or more of our city was destroyed. A hospital was severely damaged.

Medical triage was quickly established, and health care personnel are treating the injured as if in a war zone. The governor has declared the storm to be the worst tornado in Missouri history.

It is now us, not them, holding the attention of the public across the country. And the country is responding quickly and fiercely with emergency aid pouring into Joplin, instead of leaving Joplin for New Orleans, Haiti or Alabama.

The Missouri National Guard was mobilized within two or three hours of the storm, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency had people on the ground in Joplin within 12 hours with many more to follow. The American Red Cross has a functioning shelter and aid center in place some 16 hours after the storm. The nation is responding to us now, and we are grateful.

But, as with any disaster anywhere, what matters most are people helping other people, one on one, family on family, people working -- some heroically -- as a community. And Joplin is standing tall in that regard even as more clouds thunder overhead.

Homes still standing are being filled with friends, neighbors and loved ones who have no homes. There are currently beds available in shelters along with food and clothes. Insurance checks are already being written to begin the rebuilding process, and more will follow in the coming days. Most important, the city, while devastated, seems to be maintaining its calm.

At 5:45 p.m. Sunday, May 22, an American city yet again received a terrible blow, this one from Mother Nature. But 70 percent of our community is still standing and now responding as most Americans do in times of catastrophe -- with great courage, resilience and determination. United, as a community, we are ready to save more lives, provide shelter and food as needed and begin to clear the wreckage so the rebuilding can begin.

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