When we arrived in Joplin, the short distance from the highway to my sisters house looked fairly normal, except for the piles of tree limbs, trunks and branches piled high on every curb. Two blocks from their home we passed the elementary school that my nieces attended. The fence was littered with trash and debris. In front of the school was a Red Cross tent. My sister lives at the end of a dead end street. Their home was intact, with the exception of some roof and tree damage. After breakfast, we took a "tour" of Joplin. Just a few blocks from their house, the landscape quickly changed. What can best be described as a war zone soon began to emerge. As far as the eye could see there was destruction. Activity was evident on most every block in the form of men using chain saws, police directing traffic (no lights worked), people digging through rubble, and volunteers manning food tents or wagons. It was almost like a carnival atmosphere, only instead of rides and games, there was debris and destruction.
Some things surprised me as we drove for miles around the area:
* Totaled cars were everywhere. They were upside down, windows broken, tops smashed. Many looked like they had been hit by a Bonnie and Clyde type machine gun attack.
* Spray paint was a major form of communication. . . what houses had been inspected (marked with an X), addresses painted across what was left of the house, street names sprayed on the curb and corners, religious proclamations, and even a warning or two to stay off the property (U loot, we shoot).
* The amazing variety and scope of volunteer organizations in the area. Everything from Red Cross to the Baptist Men's Association were seen working.
* Even though much of the commerce district was gone, make shift tents and trailers offered free food, water, toiletries and other necessities of life.
* Workers on the Home Depot lot were rebuilding a structure. I am sure that the need for their products will be enormous in the coming weeks and months. They were wasting no time responding to the demand.
When we got back to Mike and Debbie's house, we watched the Memorial service on TV. The raw emotion showed through on the speaker's faces and in their voices. After seeing the damage first hand, I could understand this emotion. The thing that kept crossing my mind was "Where do you start to fix this?" I am the type that usually just digs in and goes. But really, when all that is left is debris and trash, were do you begin?
On the way home that afternoon, I had time to think. What I processed was just how lucky the community was to have so many survive what could have potentially wiped out thousands. How blessed we were that our family was not hurt. How powerful Mother Nature can be. How we all need to live like this day may be our last. When you put that in perspective with your life, everything else pales. God Bless Joplin and the people who live there. They will not have an easy road ahead of them.