I have a reasonable amount of fear when it comes to tornado's. I fear them enough to go to a safe place when the sirens go off, but not enough to spend two hours with my head between my knees in the "tornado position" I learned in elementary school.
Last week Joplin, MO was hit with an EF-5 tornado. I know that tornado's recently tore through some of the southern states, and while I feel for them, they are still far enough away from me that I could distance myself from all that pain. I have never been to Joplin, but it is close enough that our local news/radio stations have been able to send people there to keep us all updated on every heartbreaking story as it unfolds. I know there are good stories, stories of survival and stories of people helping each other out, but for the past week there have been more sad than happy stories. We have to hear about the devastation first before we can truly appreciate the tales of survival that will follow.
Some of the damage in Joplin
A father desperately tries to hold onto his teenage son as the tornado sucks him out of the roof of the car. Pictures posted on the internet of loved ones that no one has seen since the tornado struck. Bodies found buried in a huge pile of debris. Homes are gone, not just damaged, they are gone and the contents are being found as far as 300 miles away. Countless jobs have been taken away. Pets are wandering through the streets lost and confused.
I've listened to men cry as they attempt to describe what they found when they arrived in Joplin to assist in search and rescue, clean up, or to drop off donated supplies. We have seen the pictures and heard the stories, but it seems as though that was not enough preparation for the what they saw when they arrived.
A few days later tornado's went through Oklahoma and parts of Missouri once again. I spent two hours watching the weather/news reports from my safe place at work as sirens went off in towns through half the state. More homes were destroyed, jobs were lost, and a few more lives were taken.
Joplin got pounded with severe storms in the days following the tornado, but that didn't stop the volunteers.
As I was driving through my small town that evening on the way to my home for the night I started to get really angry at the people I passed. Someone was building a deck onto their house and I got mad at them and said some not nice things about them (under my breath and inside my car, with the windows up). A man was playing catch in the front yard with his daughter and I gave them the "evil eye" as I drove past (they didn't see me). All I could think about were the tornado's and all the pain (physical and emotional) that people were going through. I was hurting for them and I was grieving the loss of people I had never met. I didn't understand why everyone was not feeling the same pain that I was.
Yes, I know we all express our emotions in different ways and I was judging them for not expressing their emotions in the same way I was at the exact same time I was. Stupid.
You can not walk into a gas station, grocery store, or restaurant without seeing a donation jar for tornado victims. I have not seen an empty jar anywhere. The Red Cross had so many people show up to donate blood that they had to turn people away. The city of Joplin has received so many donations that they have asked people to please hold their donations until they have been able to sort through everything that has already been delivered. People are donating their clothes, their money, their time, even their blood as their way of letting people know that we are here for them. We don't all react in the same way, but all that matters is that we do something.
A double rainbow in the sky over Joplin after the tornado
I am thankful that I live in a world where people leave work to help strangers in another town; where savings accounts are dipped into so that donations can be made to those less fortunate; where store shelves are emptied and the contents are shipped to those in need. I am thankful to live in a world where people care.