I had the opportunity to travel to Joplin this weekend with a group from Greentree Church. We took a trailer full of donated items and spent 2 days working on a clean-up crew. It's impossible to adequately show the scope of the devastation, and it's difficult to find the words to explain it. We had a group of 17 from Greentree and joined with approximately 17 others, including a group from New York. We spent several hours picking up debris from a farmer's hay field, clearing 30 acres, then went to some property that sat on the edge of the destruction. Our group worked tirelessly in oppressive heat to accomplish a great deal, clearing debris from the yard and moving it to the curb (where it must be to be picked up by the city). In spite of all this work, that left us exhausted, when you looked at the big picture, we had made no significant dent whatsoever. . .
We traveled into the heart of the destruction, and it quite simply takes your breath away. Had this happened to a single block or subdivision, it would have been an unspeakable tragedy, but as you drive for block after block after block, the view does not change. I went to college in Joplin, and graduated in 1984. There have been changes, but much of the city remains the way it was back then. I couldn't get my bearings or "feel" where I was. The visual cues your mind uses to orient itself are gone. . .
We were fortunate to find hotel accommodations in nearby Carthage. We returned the next morning for our assignment, and returned to the property from the previous day. Again, using tractors, trailers, rakes, shovels, and hands and feet, we worked for several more hours. Once again, the heat slowed the pace, but I marveled at the effort expended by this group. I can't imagine property owners having to do this work by themselves.
In the afternoon, we were dispatched to Alabama street in the heart of the destruction where a backyard needed clearing. Large trees had been toppled and piles of debris had blown in and clung to the trees. On one hand, it was amazing the progress we made, but then again, it's just so little compared to what needs to be done.
I'm embarrassed to say that I was glad when we called it a day. I was hot, tired, and just plain beat. I couldn't wait to climb in the truck and drive it home. It was a relief to get out of there. . . but all day today, I've felt guilty for being in my air-conditioned house while thousands are still without in Joplin. If you have been thinking about going to Joplin to help out, you should go. Be prepared for miserable conditions & difficult and sometimes dangerous work. But it's work that matters and work that will need to continue for a long, long time.