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Visiting Joplin – Video and images of an injured city (and how to help)

Joplin is my neighbor, about 60 miles to the north. We were spared the horrible tornado that hit the city last week. I joined a carpool of people whose names and faces I’d only seen on Facebook, and we spent the entire day in the city to bring donations, survey the damage and support the people of Joplin.

Apologies in advance for the poor camera work. About 1/3 of the city is in shambles. Entire neighborhoods have been flattened like pancakes. On the houses that are standing in one neighborhood in the city, there are spray-painted numbers that note how many bodies were found (an “x” if no bodies were found in the rubble), color-coded sheets of paper taped to the front doors that determine whether or not the houses are salvageable, and messages for passers-by who might be looking for their relatives. One house noted that all had made it out safely. One house read “Tear Me Down” on one side, “I’m Done” on another, and had a makeshift, spray-painted “For Sale” sign on the street corner.

We went because we heard a certain Church That Must Not Be Named, that is known for picketing the funerals of soldiers and members of the LGBT community, had obtained a permit to protest outside the memorial service for the Joplin visitors. Our job – and the job of more than 6,000 other people – was to make sure that if they did show up, their voices were drowned out by messages of love and peace. The motorcycles helped, too.

According to the news reports, no one from that church ever did show up. There are rumors going around that they were prevented from protesting by all kinds of means, but since I can’t verify the real story, I’ll just say it was good that instead of voices of hate, we brought, heard and saw messages of hope.

We managed to get inside the memorial service, where amidst prayer, hymns and worship, Gov. Jay Nixon and President Barack Obama each provided words of encouragement.

Right now, the momentum is there. People seem to be eager to help this city heal. But when I say these people need help, I mean it. I’ve never seen anything like this. I moved away from the gulf coast three months before Hurricane Katrina hit and destroyed many homes and lives. Most of my life has been spent in Arkansas, where we’ve always been in Tornado Alley, but if you lived in a house with a solid foundation and you hid in a closet you’d be fine. With natural disasters increasing in intensity, it is a sad reality that the worst is yet to come.

Here’s a very short video I shot on my phone during our trip through Joplin. I wish I could have captured the destruction. We plan to go back to offer more help to this city.

Joplin needs help. I cannot stress this enough. Here are some things you can do:
– Text “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation. You can also donate online or give blood.
– Help Joplin rebuild and foster economic development by making a donation to the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce’s Business Recovery Program. They accept Paypal, so anyone in the world can do this.
– Donate to the Joplin Tornado First Response Fund through the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.
– Donate cash to any of the following organizations (call ahead of time):
  • The Bridge: (417) 206-6886
  • Central Christian Center: (417) 781-5982
  • College Heights Christian Church: (417) 624-6915 

After this weekend, I’ve done some reevaluation on the petty arguments we have amongst each other that result in lost friendships or silly online fights. They just seem pointless. At this very moment I really don’t care what’s happening in Washington or what celebrities are doing what with other celebrities. I’m just numb. But I can share this story with you.

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