My daughter has been a part of an intense descipleship program called The Sisterhood of the traveling Armor. This program is in 3 month increments and she just finished the first 3 months. As part of this program she was required to write an essay about something that had happened in her life, she chose to write about the tornado in Joplin MO May 22, 2011. I knew my daughter was a talented writer, she brought tears to my eyes and warmth to my heart as she described the night of the tornado and her personal experience in the aftermath. I am putting it on my blog for you to read, it is my hope that you appreciate it as much as I did.
Like a gentle stream that clears the leaves from its stones, is a child’s tears as they clear the dust and grime from his cheeks in uncertain lines. Like a savage animal protecting her dead from others, is a mother standing in the streets clutching her dead child to her chest. Like the dark and estranged caves of the wilderness, is the man suffocating under the rubble, doubtful to be discovered in time. Like nature losing her home to man, is man now losing his home to nature.
Hours after the incredible tragedy, I saw these things. People wandered the streets, children cried for their parents, mothers refused to believe that breath had indeed escaped their child. Hundreds waited in the collapsed rubble and debris, praying for relief, hoping to be found. The scarred and mutilated frames of buildings and homes that had been such a key part in our community now stand in sacred memory of the lives and livelihoods that have perished.
There is no good way to begin such an essay as this, no good place to set my pen into motion. I feel a small amount of infidelity in knowing that as the storm raged on, I was drinking coffee with family having just finished a rained out ride on my horse. I didn’t believe it at first. How could I? On my way home from Welch that night, I heard of the devastation for the first time on the radio. With a strange, but iron calm I came home to my worried parents and sat to watch the weather channel which was portraying a live scene of a sight near the demised hospital. A strong and determined need to be there to help in some way overcame my being and apparently my father’s as well. Soon, my father, brother, and I were loaded down with anything we thought we might need and on our way. Long, winding back roads eventually led us into the heart of hell.
We quickly took to foot when near all the roads proved blocked with down power lines. One main road we needed to cross took about a mile of walking in the opposite direction to finally find a safe crossing point. It was on our way doubling back that we came upon about fifty or so nursing home patients, of whom the majority were wheelchair bound, along the side of the road. Their home was flooding due to broken water lines and their roof was close to collapsing. They where evacuating to a military office across the street, but the disabled patients could not move up the water overrun roads or the mud sunken yards to get to a safe crossing place. We spent some time with them trying to find a solution, but circumstance forced us on.
I do not know what became of the nursing home patients or if they ever reached their destination. The thought pains me now. It was not long after that I found myself subjected to a sight that mirrored a night time version of what I had seen on the T.V. earlier. In fact I was standing in the place of the anchor from the weather channel. In front of me was the smoky, forsaken hospital. Gas was strong in the air and the wind whipped fabric from upper level curtains where the outer walls had been completely torn out. The sight set my will to steel and my emotions disassociated from my body. There was work to be done.
Across from the hospital, emergency medical tents had been set up and I could see volunteers coming out of the hospital through the E.R. side doors, laden down with supplies to take to the tents. This is where I spent my night. Flashlight in hand, I entered through the shattered glass doors and took up with a group of strangers and a nurse with word of pediatric supplies needed quickly. This set off hours of trudging through the flooded hallways of the eerie hospital.
Tiles from the ceiling littered the soggy floors, absorbing the water and creating a sludge that made the work of pushing laden carts of supplies twofold harder. It did not take long for exhaustion to set deep into my bones, but I decidedly ignored and pushed through it. Wires hung dangerously from the ceiling and strange red lights periodically blinked from hardly recognizable computer monitors. The whole place reeked of gas and blood and the awful water.
Typically I was always with someone in the black, desolate building, but there were times of estrangement amidst the flashlight lit halls. Always I could hear the distant sounds of workers in another hallway searching for similar items as myself, but occasionally the noise would cease and the red tinted water rather inspired paranoia.
Throughout the night my feet sloshed and squished through the mess as my muscles strained to drag supplies through the broken doorway and then on across the street to the medical tents. When finally the hospital had given all the tents could hold and our job was exhausted. I left the hospital and found my father and brother and after a while longer, we headed home.
Once home, we all dragged our tired bodies into our rooms to remove our soiled clothes and then fell into our beds. The next few weeks held many more long hours towards the restoration of our great city. By: Kelly Rarick 2011