A messsage from Joplin

The following is a message from somebody with family in Joplin, Missouri, which I received via the Walk to Emmaus prayer chain. I've deleted names for privacy:

31 May 2011

Dear Friends and Family,

My brother-in-law and I returned to Dallas from Joplin Wednesday night. We were able to help my sister and brother and their neighbors to do temporary repairs on roofs, remove trees from roofs, clean up and stack debris for pickup later, and cut down dangerous trees. We took generators to my brother and sister, chain saws, tarps, tools, water, and supplies, My brother and my nephew stayed to help a little longer...

My brother from Oklahoma was in Joplin on Monday and Tuesday to help also. My brother and his family who live north of Joplin helped other Joplin families, also.

It is amazing how many are helping and donating to help in Joplin. When we were working to clean up, people were driving by with truck loads of water and supplies to distribute. Complete strangers are helping each other. We helped neighbors that my sister had never even met. One neighbor lady was shocked that we drove all night from Dallas and were willing to supply materials to cover her broken windows and cover her roof and remove trees from atop her house and clean up debris and would not accept any payment. She knew we weren't from Joplin, so she would ask each of us, 'And where are you from?' We had three from Dallas, one from Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and I was from California. We jokingly told her that my Persian brother-in-law came all the way from Iran.

There is still no electrical power, natural gas, TV, internet, home phones, or clean water in the tornado area. You can't fix meals. There are booths set up on parking lots all over town where you can get free meals. Tyson foods brought in three semi-loads of chicken to the Lowe's parking lots and had giant grills grilling chicken to make chicken wraps for the people, for free.

Groups had set up grills on the Food 4 Less lot, and they were distributing free hamburgers, hotdogs, pulled pork sandwiches, and all the fixings. Everywhere you look there are truckloads of supplies and water available. Churches have parking lots full of eager volunteers and food and supplies for everyone. A local business, Tamko Roofing, donated $1 million and is renting housing in Joplin to give to victims. Wal-Mart donated $1 million and truckloads of supplies. My niece's employer donated $500,000.

Tetanus shots are being given on the Lowe's parking lot. There are many cuts and nail injuries due to rescue and cleanup work. There were 8,000 homes and business destroyed. So far, 125 people have been killed, and over 200 people are still missing. Close to 1,000 people were injured. It is devastating to get a 360 degree view and see nothing but devastation for miles.

You can see the crippled St. John's Hospital from all over town now, because there are no houses or trees to block your view. All patients from St. John's Hospital were taken to Freeman Hospital, so the St. John's staff is working side-by-side with the Freeman staff. All persons injured had to leave Joplin for medical attention, because Freeman was over capacity. People drove to Oklahoma to Miami and Tulsa for care. Many went to Springfield, Missouri, and Kansas City for care.

I have friends and family who have lost everything materially but are still blessed. Their homes, belongings, and cars are lost, but they still have their loved ones.

I know that my brother's mother-in-law was killed, but we have no idea when we will be able to have a funeral. They are currently putting the dead in refrigerated trailers. My brother and his family found his mother-in-law buried in rubble at her home site, with a blanket over her and laying in what used to be a hallway closet. They pulled her from the rubble but were forced to leave her covered and laying in the yard in the rain until 2:30 in the morning, when the coroner was finally able to come for her. It's sad, but dignity for the dead has to wait in such disasters, because looking for the living is more important.

Nobody is screaming and asking for government assistance. Friends and family take care of each other. Total strangers take care of each other. A handshake is all the thanks and payment anyone wants. One of my sister's neighbors couldn't be in their home, due to structural damage, but they brought out the grill and were making hamburgers and hotdogs for all the neighbors working to clean up. I worked for hours one morning making tray-loads of sandwiches for the neighborhood.

I'm worrying about people like my sister, who have so much damage to their homes, but they are not considered a total loss. You have insurance deductibles on your cars and home. They had three vehicles damaged. Their roof was torn off and will have to have new rafters, plywood sheeting and shingles, as well as new guttering, windows, fences and storage buildings. They will have to have all ceilings, walls, and carpet removed and replaced due to water damage. Their furniture is damaged. They will have over $2,000 in deductibles. Right now her home smells like dead fish. They are currently living in their garage. My brother and sister and their families are all losing pay for this week and will try to return to work next week. Not having power and waters make it difficult to keep clothes clean. There is no dish washing. Everything has to be disposable.

My sister, her daughter, one-year-old granddaughter and black lab, all piled into the bathtub screaming and crying during the tornado, while her husband knelt next to them. My brother and his wife were on the floor of their laundry room in the garage area. All of them thought it was the end.

My friend lay in her bathroom floor with her golden retriever as her house fell in around her. Neighbors came to dig her out after the storm. When her husband and son arrived home, they found their vehicles flung from the driveway into a field a block away. Next door to her, my brother-in-law's brother and his wife crawled into the crawl space under their home and looked up to see that their home was gone and their cars destroyed, but they were alive.

My high school was destroyed. My nephew's brand new middle school was destroyed. My niece's mother-in-law was a principal at Irving Elementary School, and her school was destroyed. The apartment I lived in until December of last year was destroyed. My cousin's home was destroyed.

The tornado takes leaves, insulation, lumber, and everything, and it's as if it is put into a blender and chopped into tiny pieces and blown out everywhere. It covers the cars, the houses, everything.

There are flat tires everywhere because of exposed nails everywhere. There is a tire company that has set up on a parking lot at 26th and Main, and they are fixing flats for free. We got a flat as we were leaving town yesterday. We pulled up to the lot and they were like an Indy pit crew. They had the tire off and two nail holes patched and the tire back on in a couple of minutes. The cell phone companies are giving away free batteries and chargers. Duracell has set up at a parking lot and has satellite phones for people to contact people and have computers and cell phone charging stations at their booth for people to use. Tide is in Joplin to help with laundry needs, if people have any laundry left to clean.

I have been taking many pictures on my phone, but even pictures do not give a true representation of the devastation...

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