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Reflections One Year Later
by my friend, Mitzi Smith
It would take hours and hours to write about the tornado that hit us one year ago today and the events since. Still can't believe it's been a year. Can't tell you how many times I've heard people say things like..."What happened to Joplin was really bad, but people are sick of hearing about it!" or "Why has Joplin gotten so much media coverage when other cities have had similar destruction without near as much attention?"
I don't know how to respond to statements like these. I don't have the answers. I went to Texas after Katrina/Rita and it was bad. People have died in all of these catastrophic weather events. The only explanation I can come up with can be summed up in one word...Volunteers.
I live here. I've been deeply affected by the storm and it's changed me forever, yet I didn't lose a single loved one or experience any property damage. Within minutes after the tornado passed through, we headed to St. John's hospital. That was my first glimpse of the power of the human spirit and the word "volunteer" took on a whole new definition for me. To me, "volunteer" is synonymous with "angel." I became a volunteer that night, and for days, weeks and months after. It began with our own citizens, frantically digging through rubble, guided by the screams for help, loading up the dying and injured into their own vehicles to get them to the only hospital still standing and functioning. Then came the police, firefighters, paramedics, medical professionals from surrounding towns. From there, it grew, like nothing I've ever seen in my life. They, the "angels," came from Kansas City, St. Louis, and other Missouri cities. They came from bordering states. They came by car, RV, airplane, every mode of transportation you can imagine. Some even hitchhiked, but they came. And they kept coming. We've had volunteers come from virtually every state in this country and beyond. Africa, South America, Europe, just to name a few. Some of the angels have never left. They are still working to rebuild homes and shattered lives. New angels arrive every day, a whole year after the storm.
I believe it is the massive influx of volunteers that has produced the attention that Joplin has received. How can that be a bad thing? For those of us who reside here, we will forever refer to time as "before the tornado" and "after the tornado". We won't get sick of hearing about it or talking about it, because we are still living with the effects. We see it every single time we drive our city's streets. It will FOREVER be there, in some way. But if it weren't for the angels, those incredible, wonderful, committed volunteers, we couldn't have gotten this far. No way. Thank you will never, ever be enough, but each of you has our undying gratitude.