|Volunteer Clean-Up Crew from Arkansas. From left: Daniel Brinker, Danny Northcutt, Kevin Barber, Brandon Hoult, me (Jennifer Lewter), and Russ Terwilliger. Photo by Margaret Terwilliger.|
|Brandon and Daniel work diligently in the 100+ degree heat. Photo by J. Lewter|
Joplin, Missouri seemed like a far-away place. I had never been there, and prior to the horrendous F5 tornado that hit it earlier this year, I was pretty sure I'd never even heard of it. When some of my friends wanted to go volunteer for a day in Joplin, I decided to go along. I did not realize that this town, where more than 150 people were killed, was only a 3.5 hour drive from my own home.
"Joplin - stirred, not shaken," said Brandon Hoult of the damage he observed. We were all shocked at how bad the city looked. It had been more than a month since the tornado hit, and it still looked like a nuclear bomb had been the culprit.
"It looks good compared to how it was," a local civilian assured us. The lady we met said that the tornado had changed paths unexpectedly, and that the anchorwoman on TV started screaming when she realized the magnitude of the storm. "When the news lady starts screaming," she said, "you know it's bad." The civilian also mentioned that they could not actually see the tornado; it was just dark and rainy with winds in excess of 200 miles per hour.
Margaret Terwilliger said it is "kind of sad" that Joplin really isn't in the news or on the forefront of everyone's minds anymore because there is so much work that still needs to be done.
Kevin Barber was glad the relief effort was so efficiently organized. It is true that none of us had a clue about what to expect when we pulled up to the College Heights Christian Church in Joplin. We were treated very well, and given equipment, masks, and boots to borrow for the day. I was quite happy to borrow some work boots since I hadn't even considered the amount of nails I would be stepping on.
We spent the whole day working on one house, but we did not come close to finishing the debris clean-up there. "What we did is about all you can do," said Russ Terwilliger. The heat was brutal, even though several different people drove by and brought water, Gatorade and fresh watermelon to us throughout the day. Several of us plan to go back when the weather is cooler.
If you are able and willing, Joplin could certainly use your help. We were very impressed with College Heights as a volunteer hub. Their web address is:
The link below shows a 3D image of the tornado using data from Google Earth. Original post by steve16624.