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Monday, May 30, 2011

Tornado brings out the best in people

I have, over the years, covered a couple of tornadoes and their aftermath. What I saw last Sunday in Joplin was worse than anything I'd seen to that point.
I saw firefighters, shaking with frustration as they watched a house burn, rolling up the hoses they couldn't use because there was no water pressure.
I saw people wandering through the streets, with a dazed expression on their face, looking for missing loved ones. Others simply sitting in stunned disbelief at the devastation of what was once a thriving, growing community.
I also saw amazing things.
The employees of a Walgreens pharmacy at 20th and Main simply walked out of their shattered store with armloads of medical supplies and blankets and started treating the wounded who were wandering up. Soon enough the parking lot of that store was a makeshift triage center.
I saw people walk up and simply ask, "What can I do to help."
I only got a small snippet of what was going on in Joplin that frightening evening. I know there are at least 90 dead — a number likely to rise — and hundreds, if not thousands, wounded.
What I did see was something that always makes be proud to be from this part of the country.
No one was sitting around waiting for someone to come help them. No, they dug themselves out of the rubble, shrugged, got their sense of humor in place and then went looking for someone to help.
No one knows what the next weeks and months will bring. There are many businesses and their attendant jobs which are simply gone.
If past experience brings any insight, it is that Joplin's population will likely shrink some as people look elsewhere for housing and jobs. But I also know Joplin will bounce back, as other communities have done.
I know there has been some looting in the aftermath of the storm, there always is. Disasters like this always bring out the worst in some people. However, it also brings out the best in far more.
Already there have been many selfless acts in Joplin. People who are opening their homes to those who have lost everything. Businesses donating food or shelter to those who are on the streets.
The road back for Joplin will not be an easy one. I worked in Parsons in the aftermath of the EF-4 which hit there about 10 years ago. It took the best part of a decade for Parsons to return to what it once was. I imagine that will likely be the case here as well.
I know the people of Joplin are as tough and resilient as they come and the vibrant community that was Joplin will return as well.
In the meantime, Kansans, who are no strangers to this kind of devastation, will be here to help with our hands, our hearts and yes, our prayers.
All IMHO, of course.

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