As most everyone knows I am a Joplin resident. The tornado which affected this area may not have physically harmed me, but on an emotional level I was hurting for my community, my fellow citizens and my friends.
The first night I was out in the damaged areas I did see some of the damage, much more I found out the next day than I ever thought possible. When I finally got out into the heart of the damaged areas of the community I could feel my heart break. I pushed the emotions down, holding back my tears, and continued to look. I saw the broken spirits of my fellow citizens and my heart continued to break. I started sleeping less and all I could think about is how will this community heal.
As the week has passed on my heart has been mended by the things I have been seeing. With the words “We will rebuild” sounding in my ears I have continued to view the outpouring of love, dedication and respect from the huge numbers of people who have given their all to help this community become whole again.
I think the very first time I started feeling my heart heal was when the words “we have no more room for volunteers” came over the radio one of the first days after the tornado ravaged the community. So many people had come to the community to try and help the desolate and displaced people find help in their time of need.
My heart continued to swell the more I heard about different organizations, groups of people and complete strangers who donated their money, their time, their items and most of all their love and emotion to the people who were just as ravaged as their homes hit by the tornado. Our hearts have been on the mend since the community started saying “We will rebuild.”
I had the opportunity to attend the festivities at Galena Days on Saturday. I listened to the music play and saw all of the smiling happy people running around, visiting booths, riding rides and dancing near the stage.
I was surprised to find out the band playing that night had decided to donate their pay to the people of Joplin. They were also taking donations from the giving people of the community. At one point during the show a challenge was given to the people attending. The band asked anyone who could, to donate one dollar to the citizens of Joplin. As the music continued to play the people continued to line up. The line grew longer and longer and longer. Each person bringing up a donation of a dollar or more to give to the people of Joplin. My heart grew and I could hardly hold back the tears. A man in a military uniform approached the stage and as he laid down his donation in the guitar case I very nearly lost my grip on my emotions. For a second time my heart broke, but this time it was breaking from the overwhelming joy and respect for these people who, even in their relaxed time of having fun, never forgot about the people who had lost their homes or their lives.
The whole situation has been very inspiring and eye-opening to me. And so I will continue to tell myself, “We will rebuild!”
(Stefanie Cope is a staff writer for the Columbus Advocate and the Baxter Springs News. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.)