Monday, June 6, 2011

Joplin, Missouri

As I was coming home yesterday from visiting my family in Branson, MO, I was trying to decide if I should take a drive through Joplin to see the tornado damage from exactly two weeks ago.  I was by myself and very curious to see if my favorite antique shop survived but I knew I wouldn't be able to handle what I was about to see.

I have no family and no close friends that live in Joplin, just acquaintances.  Since living in Oklahoma the past 15 years, I have made many, many stops in Joplin on the way to Ozark, MO to visit my family.  Joplin is the half-way mark between my parents home and my home; where I sometimes meet my parents to drop my kids off in their care or pick up my kids, or we will stop there to stretch our legs and get a snack.  I meet family and friends from my old home town to shop and eat.  

For the past two weeks I have seen numerous photos and news accounts from this devastation and heard numerous stories from family and friends that have been to Joplin the past two weeks to help out.  Everyone that has been says you can't prepare yourself enough for what you are about to see.  You can't even get a picture that shows what this devastation is all about.  You can't grasp it until you experience it.  Truth!

I'm at mile marker 15, the main Joplin exit is mile marker 8.  I start crying... wanting desperately to see the damage but wanting not to see it because I am and always have been an emotional girl.  On the outskirts of Joplin, you see a touch of where the tornado came across the interstate.  Although it destroyed a home & many trees and damaged a few around it... it still doesn't even prepare you for what you are about to see.

I drive up that exit ramp praying, crying, breathing deeply.  I look around and I'm relieved to see so many recognizable places.  I make the right turn off of Range Line Road and travel down to my antique shop "Antique Gallery".  I breath a sigh of relief as I see the little white building peeking out of the hill only to pull in and see a closing down sign.  I wonder why?  Did he lose his home?  His family?  Was he one of the 141 confirmed dead so far?

I get back on Range Line Road and travel further down the road.  I can't stop the tears from flowing.  I don't even know which fast food restaurant this is from... there is nothing left to identify it.

These pictures look small.  Please take the time to click on them, pull them up to get a better look at the destruction and pray for these people and the workers that are trying to restore this town.  

The Hobby Lobby store that I helped get ready to open many years ago was still standing.  Then I drove down a side street and another and came across this picture that was so eerie to me.  The playground was still standing but the subdivision it belonged to was completely destroyed with not a thing left standing.

This is the subdivision that the playground belonged to

Two weeks after the tornado struck, you can see where much work has been done already.  The streets are cleared and the piles are being made.  I just stood in awe in the middle of the street.  Every direction you look, there is piles of rubble that used to be a home.

Major clean-up started immediately after the shock of the tornado wore off and people realized there was much work to be done.

I can't even emphasize enough the feeling of eeriness this was for me.  I traveled through at 8:00 pm on Sunday evening after all the workers were gone for the day.  No one was out sifting through the remains of their home, it had already been done.  There were a few drifters like me out assessing and taking pictures.  The loneliness just consumed me and I couldn't quit sobbing.  I imagine this is what a ghost town must be like.  Or maybe even the rapture when Christ returns?

Amazing how the stop signs are still standing in all of the pictures that I took.  What normally seems so nondescript, now stands tall amongst the piles of wreckage all around it.

Yes, Thank You America!

Although I could not stop crying throughout this journey, it was somewhat comforting to see signs like this and the ones that said "God Bless You", "God Bless Joplin". The American flags amongst the ruins were a welcoming sight as well.

How can there not be more than 141 deaths in this catastrophe?

After driving down street after street you realize they are all the same.

Eeriness... you can see the dishtowel still hanging on the rod under the sink.

Eeriness... you can see a box fan dangling by its cord hanging off the side from what was at one time the second floor.  Also hanging off the side is bedsheets and clothes.

I stuck my camera out the window and took this picture as I was driving down the road.  It was the weirdest feeling to be surrounded by so much devastation for miles.  Oddly enough, the water tower still stands although their water was not safe to use for the first week.

Ironic... Yes, Alabama knows, don't they Cora?

I saw this as I was slowly driving down the street.  I had to turn around and go back by it again for it immediately caught my eye.  It was on the main street so I couldn't stop and take a picture.  Although it is blurry, it was a drive by shooting and I didn't think it would turn out but I'm glad it did.  In the pink and purple bedroom of a little girl, there is a little pink dress and a little purple dress still hanging in the closet.  So very eerie to me...

There is hope.  They will survive.  They will rebuild.

Please pray for them.

I had sensory overload in this short hour which seemed like it lasted for weeks.

  • the smell... rot, decay, death
  • the sound... deathly quiet
  • the touch... of my broken heart for these poor people
  • the sight... of nothing like I've ever seen in my entire life

The only word I can describe this experience with is Eerie.  To see so many things that I use every day in my home that I don't think a second thought to and seeing these same things laying around in the rubble of what used to be another's home... really brought this tornado destruction to light for me.  Now it's not just pictures I see or  stories I hear... it is another person, like me that is now without a home, their belongings, their family heirlooms, their memories in pictures or photo albums, or worst yet possibly without their loved ones.

I cried the rest of the hour and half drive I had left.  I prayed for these people.  I prayed for the workers as the past week and week ahead have been 90+ temps that they have been and will be working in.  I thanked God for my family and my friends.  I praised Him for all that He is and He has blessed me with.

My family will be heading that way sometime to help.  I'm not sure how soon I can go back but I know that I must.  As heart wrenching as this situation was for me, I am so very grateful that God allowed me to experience it.  I was fully reminded that God's grace is receiving what we do not deserve and His mercy is not receiving what we do deserve.


Traci @ The Bakery said...

Great post Angie. I went on Tuesday because I wanted to see as well. You are words can express it. I haven't even had enough nerve to pull up the pictures on my camera..... I would love to stand on a hill and do a 360 degree picture of the place....but still feel I couldn't get my emotion in the picture. It was so weird to see how life goes on despite the tragedy.... Great post!!

Angie Berry said...

Yes Traci, I was wishing the same thing... I wish I could somehow get a picture with a very, very wide lens. It's not something you want to see... but something everyone should see. So very sad.

Cora said...

My tears are falling with yours. My heart is broken as I pray that little girl who wore those little dresses is safe and warm somewhere now surrounded with love.
Yes Angie....Alabama does know all too well. But just like Joplin they will overcome and be blessed once again. If we do not know of bad things in life we could never appreciate the good. We are so blessed. I pray all the victims of these tragic storms with fight the good fight until the end of their days and with Gods grace they will persevere.
Thank you for sharing your feelings as this should be how everyone should feel about such events.