|Courtesy: Jeremy Haun|
How I wish that President Obama were visiting the little corner of the world where I grew up because someone there had finally found a cure for cancer, or won the Nobel peace prize, or earned a sports championship. I wish I could celebrate from afar, instead of grieving. Instead, this city that rarely gets mentioned on national news is the site of our nation’s deadliest tornado in recent history. I do appreciate that our President will take time to see for himself just how devastated Joplin, Missouri truly is and try to offer comfort to victims and families. The Joplin community is planning a Sunday memorial service.
It was with great relief and thankfulness that I heard my brother-in-law’s voice on the phone after the tornado had hit last Sunday night , confirming that all of the immediate family shared by him and my sister were safe and sound. Over the past week, it’s also been good to see messages from friends and neighbors I grew up with, letting people know they came through unscathed. Far too many of those who are “okay” lost their homes, and a sense of shock still seems to overshadow their everyday lives. I can’t even imagine how families who’ve lost their beloved children or are still looking for loved ones must be coping. It hurts to see Southwest Missourians suffering like this, even if I didn’t know all the victims personally. Like many who’ve moved away from their hometown area (I’m from rural Missouri, so Joplin was the big city where we went to shop at the mall), there will always be a connection.
The best local blogging I’ve seen about the tragedy is from Joplin teacher Randy Turner. He seems to be getting the latest facts as quickly as any other media outlets. His reporting includes the essentials in such a tragedy as this, like the first, partial list naming those who’d been killed, finally made public over the weekend.
The city of Joplin is maintaining an effort to keep the community organized in this chaotic time, with its Tornado Information Page.
The Joplin Globe’s reporting includes detailed information about how to return medical records strewn for miles away from the wind-ravaged St. John’s hospital. Facebook participants are trying to return family photographs found as far away as Springfield, more than 70 miles away.
How did this happen, why Southwest Missouri, and how did some barely avoid becoming victims themselves? Read my nephew, Jeremy Haun’s chilling first-person account of how his family didn’t even realize at first that they were racing against the monstrous tornado. As a professional graphic novel artist, he’s accustomed to art with shock value. This was all too real for the guy who’s really a family man and softy at heart.
A friend introduced me to counselor Brian Fidler’s new blog where he has begun writing his impressions of this tragedy. I think Fidler has some understanding of the things I’m sensing from afar. There are wonderful expressions of neighborliness, kindness and faith going on, as victims help each other and as thousands of emergency workers and volunteers do what they can to help. Many who survived are working toward goals of securing housing and getting back to their regular jobs. Yet, even the “okay” are not okay, and they’ll need lots of prayers and support for a very long time.