Check out this great note written by Ray Goepfert, a Joplin resident and businessman. It’s a great perspective on the destruction and rebuilding process…
In the minutes after the tornado, I witnessed a lot of the same things most people did.. The zombie like families walking away from their homes; They didn’t know where they were going to.. The neighbors searching strangers homes for survivors… The teenagers walking down the street, actually making fun of the situation.. apparently from a block north of the damage. People hurt, dead, and dying.. some receiving aid.. some not… gas leaks, fires, strange horizons.. sensory overload.. and partial shutdown.
I look back, and remember those moments as tunnel vision. I didn’t realize that the tornado went all the way thru town… despite helping in an area where I could have seen from shiffendecker to rangeline had I looked up…. and by the time I realize the level of destruction… it was like I knew the whole time.
Everything was so bad where I was at.. It would have been easy for me to accept that the rest of the world was gone as well.. In retrospect, a fascinating, and troubling experience.
This is the kind of event that makes us what we are… It defines us; at least to some degree. Perhaps we are the sum of our baggage? If you lost your home, and belongings.. The F5 is maybe the only baggage you have left… defining you almost completely.
I don’t know about you…. but I’m ready to pop that baggage in storage for a while…. I need it.. but I don’t want it to be what people see when they see me.
I once wondered what would happen if we had a WROL (without rule of law) situation here? They say it takes 3 days for a situation to degrade to the point that it is uncontrollable… Granted… Joplin’s F5 was no Katrina…. But by early the next morning.. it was obvious that the 3 day rule didn’t have a snow-balls chance in hell here in Joplin.
When state, and federal disaster management arrived later on day 2, they were dumbfounded by the fact that they could DRIVE to their destination(s).. Citizens with backhoes and chainsaws had been working since about an hour after the event; clearing roads and making search and rescue viable.
One lifelong FEMA employee asked if everyone in this town had chainsaws, and tractors.. because “this is way off!” It was the worst destruction he’d seen… and the fastest infrastructure rebuilding.
In Tuscaloosa.. he had to walk… for weeks.
Across the nation, history has proven that most people are paralyzed by these events, and make excuses like “I’m not trained” or “Help is on the way..” So they stand by, and essentially watch. Not Joplinites. They arrived with whatever tools, and lack of training they had… even if they lost their own home….
Tuscaloosa by all accounts was a much less destructive tornado.. Yet they averaged 1200+ people in their shelters at first.. Joplin averaged around 350… that’s with many, many more people losing their homes… This points to a very strong, and empathetic community…. more so than others.
One Federal aid worker told me that Tuscaloosa was sorta like Katrina in that a large portion of the people were sitting around.. waiting for help.. But Joplin was so totally the opposite that it was incredible. In all his years.. he had never seen anything like it.
We’ve really got something going here.. The people around here are truly outstanding. From 1st responders, to the “victims” themselves.. We are people who are apparently stronger than most… more self sufficient, and empathetic as well.
At this time people are fighting on capitol hill about Joplin’s “need” for additional aid.. After chatting about it on the net, I don’t feel like people are seeing the same Joplin that I have.. They regard us all as victims… but that’s not what I see on the street, or hear even from those who have lost everything… Joplin is SO much stronger than other popularized disaster locations.. It sorta hurts to be treated as ‘poor, helpless, Joplin’
I don’t know what would happen if the power went out one day, and never came back on again…. But in this Trial.. I was astounded at the lack of animalistic behavior… and the sheer ability of joplinites to adapt, and overcome…
So in closing.. I wrote this just to say Thank you friends, family, neighbors, and strangers in and around Joplin for restoring some of my faith in humanity.. I thought that perhaps we would all turn on each other… the fact that we did the exact opposite is very reassuring.
The nation, economy, or world may fall apart around us… But at the end of the day… maybe we’ll be able to retain our humanity despite that. 🙂 At least in this part of the world…
And I’m looking forward to being somewhat less defined by May the 22nd… Thank you for reading. 🙂