I have written and rewritten this post as I lay in my bed at night, doing my best to find a way into another restless sleep. To say that life will never be the same, seems like such a cliché often repeated, but after May 22 this is more true than ever.
We now live in duel worlds. Part of our community looks as if nothing ever happened. Life seems to continue as before with only the occasional military hummer or foreign colored police car to remind us of the devastation that is just over the horizon; the massive amount of nothingness that occurred only a mile and a half from my home. The other half is, as I stated before, now stands as mounds of ruble similar to the chat piles that once surrounded this old mining community.
The first couple of days I looped through a myriad of emotions, feelings such as anxiousness, guilt, and a distinct numbness from the shock of it all. Knowing I could have friends who were no longer here was more than I could bare. I struggled for the words and did my best to find comfort. After I had returned to my home from my storm “shelter” and had a serious talk with my dad by phone, I stayed in my home, though it was a fight as I was pulled toward the flashing red and blue lights that now surrounded everything I once knew. The sirens were deafening and the reports of what was still left were spotty. You would think that all of the residents still spared their homes in Joplin would be the first to hear all the news as it happened, but that was not the case. Those, states some countries away knew the full force of destruction before anyone of us could catch our breathe or think of taking cover from the hail hitting our heads. In fact it wasn’t until the next morning that I saw all that was left of my daily routine.
By the grace of God most all my friends made it out alive. I had a friend I had just seen that morning who was pulling a shift at the Ihop, two friends who were enjoying some yogurt at the local Cherry Berry and a few others whom I thought were in that part of town but thankfully were delayed for various reasons.
I did have one person I knew that didn’t make it as often happens in a smaller community Will Norton, a sweet young man that I had the privilege to have in my discipleship group in 2008 was that individual. There was not a person he would not befriend. Those good things that come out about someone after the fact were all true before the fact. He loved Jesus and I’m sure is have a great time working on his next YouTube Heaven video.
Much has occurred in a month’s time as the task at hand begins to sink in. Our local reports are still filled with death notices and legal stories long after the national spotlight has shifted the rest of the country to other newsworthy events. This was bound to happen and none too shocking. What has surprised me the most is the pace the recovery has gone. A family got a home rebuilt by local volunteers in just seven days!! A Walgreens, previously a pile of tornado laden debris, has the new exterior near completion. We are so much stronger than I ever would have imagined. People from around the country are here to help in any way they can maybe not in the numbers we saw in the beginning but they are still here and it’s humbling. I have heard that people have come to help and may not feel they are accomplishing much but just their presence and willingness to give up a Memorial Day, a Father’s Day or even a week worth of vacation, means more than words could ever express. My hope is that we are able to pay it forward, but pray fully a need such as ours will never come again. Sadly, because we are a fallen world I know that eventually there will be another Katrina, Tuscaloosa, Japan, New Zealand and Indonesia.
Until that day comes I will continue to focus and reflect on this special challenge that has been laid at our feet. Everyday a new story is revealed in how great this tragedy truly was but almost in a small whisper many symbols join those stories in order to remind us of how much greater our Lord is in the midst of pain.
One of those symbols comes in the form Joplin’s school mascot, the eagle. It caused me to reflect on a verse from Isaiah 40:31 and with that verse is how I will close.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
(I did not take the above photo but all other photos are mine and I ask that if they are reproduced that you please give me credit, thank you)