The Debris of Life

All throughout Joplin, MO one can see the damage and destruction caused by the tornado of 22 May.  One can see the structures that are missing walls, roofs or both.   Foundations standing alone beneath piles of debris.  For miles and miles, the damage stretches on and on. 

Throughout this chaos, a new form of graffiti has emerged.  Hundreds of structures marked by rescue workers and families.  Notes of hope and gratitude, warning and loss.  Signs that read “All OK” or “All Safe” or “We’re still here” over top of X’s that mark the progress of the Search and Rescue crews. 

As I have been venturing out into the path of the tornado, I have been attempting to document some of the spray paint and graffiti.  Below are some of those images:

Joplin High School (renamed Hope High School with Duct Tape by volunteers) received a direct blow from the tornado.  Located in the middle of the path of destruction, the structure still stands, but the damage has been severe.  Many walls are missing, parts of the roof collapsed in, windows blown out, but at the same time, books and pictures still line the walls and bookshelves in the exposed classrooms, one even has origami figures still hanging from the ceiling. 

This location is one of the many staging grounds for supplies, volunteers and the Search and Rescue teams.  (note:  All volunteers need to register at MSSU.  Please do not just show up at a staging ground, expecting to head out.)

This little bit of graffiti was one of many we saw in some of the hardest hit residential areas.  One house had a sign reading “House / Basement for Sale” except that the word “House” was crossed out.  It’s good to see a little bit of humor throughout this path of destruction. 

Above is an example of the evidence of the Search and Rescue teams.  The X’s can be seen throughout the damage, marking almost every structure and vehicle that received damage.  Each is accompanied by a series of numbers and letters, revealing who searched and what was found.  Several buildings and structures have several of these X’s, the result of the thorough checking and re checking of the Search and Rescue teams. 

In the area at the top of the X, the name of the group is put.  Many of these are Fire Departments (FD) or Sheriffs Offices (SO).  To the left is the date.  To the right is what was found.  A blank or 0 marks that the structure / vehicle is clear.  Below is other important information that is either a hazard or should be known before entering the house.  Examples include “Gas line broken” and “Flooded”. 

Not all the graffiti is positive.  Some are warnings.  Yesterday, we saw a little girl sitting outside her home holding what looked like a BB gun.  The sign next to her said “Looters will be shot.”

All across the city, you can see this message written on walls and signs.  It was something that started in response to the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC)’s claim that the tornado was the wrath of God because of the sins of the people.  While the WBC claim that God hates Joplin, residents, Christians and volunteers everywhere are proof that God’s love is present here in this city. 

I finish with this piece that stood out to me.  It is a message that resounds across the city and across out lives.  God does have a plan.  We may not understand what it is, nor why things happen the way they do, but they happen for a reason. 

So, I’ll leave this with you.  Think about it.  Process it.  And begin to understand that God will always be in control. 

God Bless and PEACE

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1 Comment »

  1. Cathy Keaveny Said:

    Saw you when I was working the call center on Sunday. You were taking photos of the activity surrounding OBama’s visit. I had to look you up so I could see more of your photos.I am glad I did. Your work is amazing. Thank you for sharing it with us.


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