Thursday, June 02, 2011

There truly are no words...

     I have felt such overwhelming sadness the past week and a half. I've also seen so much hope.  When a disaster hits such as we got in Joplin, there is just no way to really convey it (and I wasn't even in Joplin when it hit, and didn't lose my home, car, or family members like so many of my friends have; nor did I have to witness the horrible scene of that first tragic night).  I live just outside of Joplin, but it is such a big part of our lives.  My husband works there, I am there at least several days a week, we have family that live there, our stake center was there, and we have been staying with Grandma and Grandpa there a couple of days a week (during school) while Grandma watches my boys for me so I can go to school and clinicals.

     That Sunday we were having dinner at my inlaws (in Carthage).  Nothing out of the ordinary. . we were so oblivious as to what was about to happen.  The tornado sirens went off, again, having grown up in the midwest, nothing unusual there.  We went to the basement until they were over and returned upstairs.  My sister-in-law and her husband were there as well (who live in Joplin also) and suddenly we begin hearing little reports that this store and that store on Rangeline had been hit by a tornado. (Again, still oblivious to what had really just happened.)  We turned on the TV as everything began to unfold.  When they displayed St. John's hospital, the hospital I've had clinicals at for the past two semesters, it began to hit how bad this was. (St. John's is not very close to the places we had heard got hit on Rangeline! Not to mention, the impact of losing one of the two main hospitals at a time like this! It is not very far at all either from the other main hospital, such a blessing one was spared.) I got on facebook to see statuses from several friends who (since they had their phones) were able to post that they had lost everything but were alive (and thankfully their children were too).  Then we got word the stake center was gone (and that some of our ward members had been in it when it happened but all inside were okay.) I immediately began to think of so many of my friends.  Many worked at St. John's, but those who worked at Freeman were deeply on my mind too.. as I knew this was likely going to be the most tragic night they would ever have to work.  At the end of this last semester, we took a test over prioritizing in a disaster. I remember wondering to what extent we would ever end up using it. (Although I knew it was necessary and very valuable to teach, you never think the big tragedy is going to hit your area). I just assumed we would hopefully only have to use it on a smaller scale, for minor disasters. It kind of hit how much more is involved in nursing (and the medical field in general)  than your day to day concerns.

        I worried too about whether or not some I knew were still alive.  I sat near my sis in law as she wondered if she would even have a home left to go back to (fortunately she did).  We waited to get word from Grandma and Grandpa as we were unable to get through to their phone lines (and had heard already reports of it hitting not all that far from them.)  I wondered if Cody's work was even still there (again.. it was not all that far from the damage)  The more things unfolded.. the more heartache (and worry for those I had not yet heard from) there was.  There is so much more I could say about that night, but suffice it to say, so much had changed for so many in just a few minutes. 

     Since then, my heart continues to ache with each tragic story conveyed (either on the news or from friends who worked that night, or friends who were there when it hit).  I got to help out one day with my nursing school at a triage center. There are so many more stories from people I talked to that day that just overwhelmed me.  We had many different supplies at that center as well.  I watched several people walk past kind of looking at everything. I went and talked to them, asking what I could get for them.  Many of them broke down, overwhelmed that they could get some of the very basic things they needed, for free. Some just needed a hug, a shoulder to cry on, and someone to tell their story to.  Again, there is more I could say about that day too. 

    Later in the week I went with my sister (from Tennessee) who had driven up a van full of supplies that had been donated mostly from her husband's unit. We were able to drop things off and stay and help at some of the drop off points.  We drove past some of the main damage areas to get to some of the drop off was so overwhelming to see such things (and surreal to see places I had gone just the day prior to the tornado completely gone).   The pictures truly can't give you a full picture of how horrendous the damage was.  It's unreal to be able to see for miles and miles in the middle of Joplin (and to see miles and miles of nothing but "debris"). 

     Another day I went and did assessments with our church (to get work orders ready for when all the volunteers that are scheduled to come get here).  We drove past the stake center to get to our assigned street.  Again, it was just so overwhelming to see the destruction, and to really struggle to even recognize an area that was once so familiar.  As we did our assessments, one guy told us they had found a hand during cleanup (and his house received very minor damage, mostly just some trees that needed cut up.)  It's just all so sad.   However, you also really saw neighbor helping neighbor.

      So many expressed condolences for our stake center (as it was just down the street from them) and concern if there had been any losses (as another nearby church had unfortunately lost several who had been inside)  We were fortunate that all were okay there.  In fact, it was announced on church Sunday that our members were accounted for and although there were a couple of injuries and many homes lost, there were none lost.  Likewise, our nursing students were all accounted for as well. (again, several who lost homes and had amazingly survived in those same homes) but all were well.  You see so many photos of homes with just one tiny area left standing (as the case with some of my friends and the stake center) where people say amazingly they were in that one tiny area that was barely left standing. While there are so many heartbreaking stories as well, it's heartwarming to hear of those times where there was divine protection. It all makes me appreciate even more the things I am blessed to have.  (Oh, and on a side note they also announced Sunday that the stake center will be rebuilt by December 2012!  For now the two Joplin wards are meeting at our building in Carthage..such a good thing they expanded it a few years back!) 

     On a happy note, the highlight of my week was Ansel's preschool graduation. It had to be one of the most adorable things I've seen! Watching them all do their cute little songs in little caps and gowns was just priceless.  As one friend stated, it was a "beautiful distraction" from the week.  So I will leave you with a picture of that beautiful distraction of such an overwhelming week.