A Day in Joplin: May 24, 2011

 By Danni R. Eickenhorst, Content Specialist, Midland Division

Driving into Joplin, Missouri along Interstate 44 after one of the deadliest single tornados in history, one can only feel a mix or dread and hope – dread for the impending heartbreak of the scenes played out on TV come to life, but hope for those who have survived, and for the good The Salvation Army and other agencies can do for them as they start to rebuild their lives.

 As you enter town, you notice that this small town has become a police state with National Guard and emergency responders located at every major intersection, directing traffic and cordoning off thoroughfares. A recent curfew has even been imposed in the hardest hit areas to prevent looting and to reduce the traffic that hampers with rescue efforts.

Following The Salvation Army officers as they head out into the field to reach out to survivors and victims, it is hard to believe their calm demeanor as they stand with a family, praying and offering support. The matriarch of this family was found dead in the rubble of their home earlier today and they wait and hold vigil waiting for their father and brother to be found as well. Others might feel out of place standing here, but The Salvation Army officers seem to know that God has put them in that place for a reason, so there they stand, confident in their purpose, holding those who grieve and offering up prayers on their behalf.

The EF5 tornado that carved an unprecedented path of destruction through the community was blind to status, race, religion. It started its reign of terror in suburban farm fields, quickly traveling through an affluent gated community, and continuing on through the urban heart of town. In the affluent suburbs, bedrooms lay open to the elements, with families’ most personal of belongings laying vulnerable to the weather and whims of passersby. In the city, the site of a childless bachelor’s home is now a scrap heap of toys, strollers and children’s clothing brought to rest here by the weather.

In light of the destruction it is easy to become overwhelmed, but hard to give up hope as The Salvation Army officers and volunteers work tirelessly to meet needs at every level. It is apparent they have done this many times before. Their forces work round the clock to ensure that residents are provided with hot meals, supplies, shelter and hope for the future.

Static canteens are placed at two locations, while mobile canteens seek out people with needs wherever they may be. The site that once was The Salvation Army’s newest thrift store, now destroyed beyond repair, will become a permanent gathering place for local residents to commiserate, eat and find more substantial assistance.

The City of Joplin will be rebuilding and recovering for years to come, but The Salvation Army’s Joplin corps continues its vigilant care of the community it has supported for many years.

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