My last day in Joplin today, and my emotions are bittersweet.
I spent the last two days driving in an area near St. John's Hospital, doing what we call "Search & Feed." Drive slowly up and down the debris-laden streets, dodging branches, nails, and other unidentifiable objects, and seek out volunteers, workers, and residents who could benefit from a hot meal and ice-cold drink.
When people approach the Red Cross truck to get that hot meal and drink, it's not about the food. A lot of time is spent listening while they share their stories, of which most of them are very eager to share.
Me and my partner, Bob...
Each story is unique...a father tells me of his son taking shelter in a convenience store that ended up being on a Youtube video... a woman tells me of her cat being in the back yard during the tornado, and after being presumed dead, saunters up to their front door four hours after the storm...a young man tells of his harrowing ordeal of search-and-rescue immediately after the storm and what he was finding.
We listen...we empathize...and we assure them that we care. That they've not been forgotten. That it WILL get better, with time.
I'm heading home tomorrow. I'm bruised...sunburnt...exhausted...and hot. Although I'm happy to be heading home to see my family and my pets, part of me will be left behind in the streets of Joplin, worrying about "my people" and hoping they're doing okay.
My Joplin tornado experience ends tomorrow, but for the people here, their experience is going to last a lot longer...months, if not years, of recovery lie before them.
I implore anyone who's reading this to not forget the city of Joplin and it's people. Keep them in your prayers; consider coming here on a mission team; or consider making a donation to a charity of your choice that's doing work here.
It's the only way we can send a message that we care, and that they have not been forgotten.