Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My sis Tara and her hubby Luke serve as my “blogging barometer” for when I’ve gone too long between blog posts. Every once in awhile I’ll get an email/text from one of them, saying that they are “just checking in to make sure all is ok, haven’t heard anything from you in awhile”… And they don’t mean that I haven’t called/emailed them personally – they mean that my blog has sat silent, day after day after day. True to form (and much appreciated- thanks, guys!), I heard from them about almost two weeks ago, and it has taken me this long to sit down and catch up.

Life has been busy as always; however things are quickly put into perspective when a tragedy happens. Things hit close to home, literally, when a record-breaking F5 tornado swept through nearby Joplin, MO a week ago Sunday. I had a highschool friend who huddled with her family in their basement bathroom while the tornado swept her entire home away. Thankfully they are all okay, although it is hard to fathom the journey that they, and so many others in Joplin, have in front of them as they start to rebuild from literally nothing.

I went with a work friend to Joplin on Sunday, to volunteer with a local church that was coordinating clean-up in neighborhoods. We arrived Sunday about 10 AM, and sat through a brief orientation with about 40 people; we were the only ones in the group who were from Springfield - the rest of the people were from St. Louis, Kansas City, Oklahoma, Kansas, and even Austin, Texas. It was touching that so many people traveled hours to come and help. The coordinator said that they had had counted over 3,000 volunteers come through their church alone over the week, and expected that it would be 5,000 by the time the Memorial Day weekend was over.

As we drove from the church to the neighborhood that we had been assigned, it was hard to even process what we were seeing. Everything looked normal for the first mile or so, as we headed down one of the main streets. Then within just a few blocks it was a stark contrast - trees were stripped down to little more than jagged stumps, houses were just piles of rubble, and cars were smashed, almost all marked with a red "X" to show that they had been checked for survivors. The neighborhood where we worked was demolished - most houses in the two blocks where we were had one or two walls left standing, but the roofs and majority of the structures were in piles in the yards.

We spent several hours helping sort through one couple's property in the neighborhood. The man was disabled from a stroke, and fortunately neither he nor his wife had been home when the tornado hit. They had already spent some time gathering personal items that they could salvage, and now they had about 30 volunteers who helped to carry the wood, metal, stone, and other items into piles on the side of the street for FEMA to come through and pick up. The picture below is their home - the volunteer in the yellow shirt is standing where their kitchen was, behind her (out of the picture) is one wall with some shelves, but the remainder of cabinets and all the contents were in the rubble, covered with wood, tree limbs, metal and other debris.

We worked for almost four hours on this and my friend and I commented that it still didn't feel like we had really accomplished anything, looking at their yard and all of the yards around them. It was so sad, but also uplifting, to see and hear about the numbers of people that have come together to help during all of this. I came home sunburned and tired, but glad I had made the trip to help for just a few hours.

While my Sunday was spent in Joplin, the remainder of my weekend was spent with family and friends - and I have to say that on Monday, I was especially grateful for each of them, after seeing all of the devastation in Joplin.

Paige, Neil and his girlfriend all went with us down to the lake on Saturday to see some friends on the dock and then go to dinner at Chris & Jana's bar & grill, Fish Tales. Then Monday afternoon Dave made a late lunch for us and all three kids, in celebration of Paige's 20th birthday and Neil's 17th birthday, both of which are in May.

Everything else has been pretty status quo, although busy. Paige is in school this summer for eight weeks, has a research grant; we were glad she could make it home for the holiday weekend. As of tomorrow, Jace is done with school (Neil's already out) and we'll have plenty of baseball this summer. Looking forward to heading to Poplar Bluff for the 4th with grandparents and family, AND heading to STL for a Cards game in a couple of weeks.


Tara said...

Nance, thanks for the update. I'm glad you were able to get to spend time with Dave and the kids last weekend. I didn't know Neil had a girlfriend! I'm sure Jace is excited that summer has begun. Even though we don't have kids in school yet we still enjoy the "feel" of the summer months. Even though we are usually busier in the summer it is still somehow more relaxing.
That's great that you were able to go to Joplin to help. We are 5 hours away and it still feels close. There have been a lot of local supply and monetary drives. It is awful what happened to Joplin but it has reminded me that the world is still good and that the majority of people are still very giving.

Lucas said...

So glad you were able to donate your time. I donated some money and have been a little obsessed I'm afraid, with reading story after story after heart wrenching, gut curdling, tear inducing story. I finally had to force myself to stop because I was having nightmares at night. This kind of thing is always awful, but even more so when it's so close to home. Thanks for doing what you can to help out. Hugs.