Hope Wasn’t Destroyed That Day

Photo by Charlie Riedel/AP

We all know what it means to be afraid, but few of us have ever truly feared for our lives. That is the fear you hear in the voice of the Joplin resident whose unnerving video made its way across the internet last year. As an F5 tornado swept across this Missouri town, one resident captured the terror and surreal chaos as he huddled with his neighbors in a Joplin gas station.

you_tube Click here for the video captured on 5-22-2011 in Joplin, Mo

This YouTube video will serve as a lasting reminder of the devastating natural disaster that hit Joplin one year ago this week.  It will join the countless pictures, news stories and videos that still circulate the internet a year later.

Make no mistake, the tornado that ravaged Joplin was destructive.  But equally as powerful was the collective effort to rebuild a town that was nearly wiped entirely off the map.

Upon returning from Joplin, St. Louis Area Foodbank Distribution Coordinator Mitch Wirfs described the scene, “It was sheer destruction.  For as far as you could see, there was literally nothing there.  It was a fairly built-up community that was just gone.”

In the days after the tornado hit, St. Louisans did what most Americans do when faced with adversity – they rallied together and stepped up to help in any way they could.

From celebrities to the local school class, everyone looked for a way to help.

Bon Jovi collected supplies before his concert at the Scottrade Center.  Seven St. Louis Blues players, along with the United Way of Greater St. Louis and the St. Louis Area Foodbank held a food drive at the Scottrade Center on June 1, 2011.

For three hours, the Blues players signed autographs and posed for photos to thank fans for their outpouring of support. In less than 30 minutes, Blues fans had filled one Foodbank truck with donations!

The items collected were later driven to the closest Feeding America food bank to Joplin – Ozarks Food Harvest in Springfield, Mo.  Foodbank staff accompanied the product and helped with the recovery effort.

Wirfs said, “It was amazing the stuff that just kept showing up.  I’ll always remember this U-haul that pulled up from Indiana.  It was packed with clothing, toys and pet items.”

People from across the country traveled to Springfield with a common agenda – rebuilding Joplin and getting the people back on their feet, Wirfs said.

Recently, President Barack Obama spoke to the 2012 graduating class at Joplin High School, which was also destroyed by the tornado.

“We need each other. We’re important to each other. We’re stronger together than we are on our own,” President Obama told the students.

Those words definitely ring true.  Tornados and other natural disasters create fear, but in the aftermath, they give us faith in humanity and inspire hope for the future.

Ryan Farmer    Ryan Farmer is the communications manager at the St. Louis Area Foodbank



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