Sunday, July 17, 2011
I was not prepared for the devastation I saw today in Joplin, Missouri. I had spent the previous night in Springfield and two different people made a point of giving me directions and advising me to go into the city and take a look. I felt like a catastrophe tourist and wasn't sure if it was right, but my friend, Alice, said just don't put a label on it... go.
It started with downed limbs and trees on the outskirts of the city and then, as I got off of the freeway, a few businesses closed down or with obvious recent repairs and signs that said BACK OPEN. But then I turned a corner and saw the swath of destruction that ripped through this town. I had to stop and catch my breath. It was like a horrible monster from one of those old Japanese sci-fi films had raged through about 6 or 8 blocks across. I took a few photos but felt so intrusive. Then I drove across, all the way to the hospital and parked up on top of the hill where nothing was left. Down below there were a lot of houses that were toppled, maybe never to be rebuilt but, up here, there was just nothing. There were flowers and photos and flags marking where family members had died. The hospital windows were all blown out. I was weeping and called Bill at work just to talk to someone. Wow. My little thunderstorm on the bay story didn't sound quite so tough now. I imagined the sound of the wind, the fierceness of it. Across the town I could see nothing but green trees and knew that there was a pretty town to be seen but I just got in my car and drove out of there.