Today, 6/1/11

In the past week, we have tried to spend as much time in Joplin as we can.  The house is now a mess, in need of attention.  Yesterday Greg did some outside work, weedeating and removing the volunteer tree sprouts, and he ran a load of dishes in the dishwasher.  I arrived just as he was cooking dinner.  (What a good sense of timing, hmmm?)  Today he left me a note describing his plans for the evening which included mowing the lawn.  As I walked outside and saw that yes, the lawn did need to be mowed, only then did I realize that it was Wednesday already.

Thursday mornings are when our trash service is scheduled.  So, our weekly schedule for Wednesdays includes any activities that generate waste, such as vacuuming, yard pickup, frig cleanout, etc.  Mowing is on the schedule for Wednesdays so that it is done after yard pickup.  In a pinch, yard pickup can usually be done on Thursday mornings early, but customers have been put on notice that pickups will be done earlier than usual to accomodate the extra work in the Joplin area.  This evening we will be busy.

On Monday Greg and I worked on a clean-up crew in Joplin clearing debris between two housing areas along a ravine.  There were several people cutting broken limbs and fallen trees while many others moved the vegetation and other materials into segregated piles for removal.  In this type of situation, it is a mass labor effort and tools are limited.  So, a lot of the work is hand-carrying of materials, one trip at a time, anywhere from 20 feet to up to 300 feet.  By Monday, some wheelbarrows had been delivered, but there were many more workers than there were wheelbarrows.

During the Memorial on Sunday, Governor J. Nixon described the character of the people in our state.  [Gov. J. Nixon, Memorial Service]  In particular, he used the words “stubborn”, “impatient”, “self-reliant” and “practical”.  Our determination and resolve is often described as “stubborn”.  I believe this comes partly from the roots of our ancestors, and survival and growth required these assets.  These attributes shine as qualities when situations like this demand our full attention.  But there is one more attribute that I think is common to our area, not just Missouri, and that is resourcefulness.  My mom used to say, “Where there is a will, there is a way” and “The best help is at the end of your arm.”  I saw these traits and philosophies in action on Monday.

When you carry a small armful of material and walk back and forth many times, along with somewhere between 10 and 30 other people in your area, you begin to look for ways to accomplish more with your time and energy.  People began using items from the storm debris as tools.  One person found part of a ragged tarp to carry larger loads, others found pieces of plywood or siding to carry larger loads, and one family walked up the hill to a demolished car wash and found what appeared to be plastic covers to a piece of equipment about the size of a small garden cart.  They took sections of wire that were lying along the ground and made pull lines for the covers, one by simply threading a cord with a socket through a small hole.  These could be filled and drug like sleds back and forth.

Many odd items were found along the ravine, including a badly damaged door from a semi truck.  Personal items were collected by the volunteer organizers so those could be reclaimed.

The volunteers are amazing, and there are many volunteers simply taking care of other volunteers.  One man parked in a shopping center with tools for sharpening chains for chainsaws.  Others drove volunteers to and from work areas.  The Missouri Cattlemens’ Association and the Jasper County Cattlemens’ Association have parked by the Volunteer Desk entrance since early last week, grilling burgers and hot dogs and feeding people every day.  The work crews in our area were fed by the Red Cross.  They provided freshly cooked pork barbecue sandwiches from an EMT type vehicle along with many donated snack foods, protein bars and drinks.  So I decided to help those who were helping others and volunteered to help the Cattlmens’ Association yesterday.  As it turned out, they had four cooks and a number of people serving, so most of yesterday’s time was spent visiting with neighbors, getting acquainted for the first time, and hearing their stories of experiences in the tornado, like the couple in their 80s found walking down a gravel road and how children are struggling with bad dreams.

Not only is today Wednesday, but it is also June 1.  Time does march on, and the heat and humidity are beginning to increase.  A tremendous amout of work has been accomplished in the first week, but progress for remaining work may begin to taper.  There are many who were able to give up their Memorial Day weekends to help.  There are volunteers who are staying in tents in the parking lot, so the volunteer shelters may still be full.

Rangeline is beginning to flow at usual traffic speeds, and with courtesy for the damage, traffic remains relatively light.  Power lines have been cut down in the hardest hit areas, but most traffic lights are in operation again.  Many businesses have set up temporary operations along Rangeline, including insurance offices and support organizations as well as existing businesses.

On 5/22, I had gone back to the television after the storm subsided, watching local anchors Dowe Quick and Gary Bandy for information about the damage.  As I watched the KOAM anchor, the scope of the devastation began to sink in and the influence of his thoughts began to be visible on this reliably practiced professional:  How will we ever recover from this?  The people who serve at Starbucks’ drive-thru window are usually quick with wit and friendliness, but the person on Thursday was distracted and stressed, although still polite.  By Saturday, the wit and humor was back.  The degree of support from people local and far-away were giving the community a renewed spirit of optimism and courage.

Another piece of encouragement could be found in a one-year follow-up story on the Parsons tornado from April of 2000, re-aired the past weekend.  [Parsons tornado follow-up]

While the rebuilding will continue for more than a year, and the painful reminders will be part of the landscape for a long time, the sharpness of the pain will subside.  Rebuilding will allow better energy efficiency to be incorporated into homes and businesses.  Protection from storms will no doubt be a factor in planning.  More gas efficient vehicles may replace older vehicles.  In the long run, there are many opportunities for improvement, but at a cost that would have been avoided if that were in any way possible.

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  1. Mobinote M27es Battery says:

    Hoping for the best for everybody that lives in Springfield, Massachusetts. I saw a vid of that crazy tornado that hit it…

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