On May 22, 2011 the town of Joplin, Missouri was struck by an EF-5 tornado. The tornado in Joplin was approximately three-quarters of a mile wide and left behind a path of destruction that was 13 miles long. It destroyed many of the businesses in Joplin, five of the nine schools, one of two hospitals, killed 161 people and wounded over 1,000. This summer my youth group went on a mission trip to help the citizens who were still living in damaged houses. It was our first mission trip and none of us had any idea what to expect.
We arrived at Carl Junction High School Sunday to get checked in.The boys and girls were led down separate hallways and assigned to a classroom that served as a bedroom for the week. We were not allowed to meet our work crews until 7 o’clock that night. It seemed like time stood still but the time to meet our crews finally came. We found our crew numbers on the wall and stood there until everyone had arrived. There were five kids and one adult leader in my crew. We learned each other’s name and where everyone was from, then we received our assignment for the week which was cleaning out a backyard.
We went to our site Monday morning and introduced ourselves to our resident Joanne. She told us the house belonged to her son but she was living with him because her health was failing. She told us we were more than welcome to come in and cool off during the day if we needed too because the temperature was in the high 90s. After we introduced ourselves we went out to start on the backyard. We decided to clear out the trash and useless items first before we started weeding. As the days progressed we got to know Joanne more and she shared just how restricted she was because of her health and how frustrating it was. She told us how frustrated she gets when she cannot go out or clean up around the house and how she spends all day in the house by herself.We found some old flower boxes on the front porch and decided to fix them up and plant flowers in them for Joanne. We had them placed close to the door so she would not have to go very far to take care of them. When we left the site she gave us all hugs and stood at the door waving as we left.
On Friday we went to water trees at Cunningham Park. Cunningham Park took a direct hit from the tornado and in just a year has been completely restored with new playgrounds, and a plaque with all the names of the victims.There are 161 trees in Cunningham Park in remembrance of the victims. Our job was to water all of the trees because due to the recent drought the trees are struggling to stay alive. Across the street from the park is what was left of St. John’s Hospital. The shell of the hospital looked like an empty parking garage, and a pile of debris stretched over halfway up the building. The debris produced by the tornado was more than the amount of debris produced on 9/11. Seeing how important the park is to the Joplin community and seeing the hospital was a reminder of how important it is to help those in need because you never know when you might be the one in need.
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