The Finger of God

Today marks the one year anniversary of the EF-5 Tornado that ripped through Joplin, MO.  It was on this day that thousands of lives changed forever.  The stories of survivors still stir our hearts as they speak of loved ones that passed from this world that night.  Scars can still be seen across the landscape, even though the wreckage no longer litters the ground.

For hundreds of AmeriCorps members, this was the moment in their term of service everything changed.  Members of the St. Louis Emergency Response Team (ERT) and the Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) responded that night.  Others received the call the following day and in the days and weeks to come, hundreds poured in. 

I remember that day like it was yesterday.  While responding to the Good Friday tornadoes in St. Louis, a small group of us decided to take our first real break from disaster response by going to Six Flags.  It was a beautiful day, where we spent time reflecting over the year, enjoying the day off of work and coming closer as team members and friends. 

Throughout the day, we were constantly receiving alerts and texts about the weather.  As the day wore on, the clouds began to build up and the winds increased.  Soon, the distant rolls of thunder could be heard as we departed the park. 

Upon our return to our housing, we heard the first whispers of Joplin.  As I checked in with family, I discovered how true it was as my parents informed me of the damage that they were witnessing on national news. 

I went to sleep that night knowing that we may eventually get called to serve in Joplin. 

The next morning, I woke early to help set up breakfast.  Oddly, nobody showed up, so I sat and ate in peaceful bliss.  Upon my arrival upstairs, I was met with a scene of chaos as the 21 other individuals from two teams were frantically packing.  We had recieved the call to respond to Joplin, and nobody had bothered to tell me.

That was the beginning of the deployment that changed all of us.  Joplin challenged us.  Brought out the best in us.  Changed us.  We were no longer Corps Members, but part of something that was bigger than all of us combined. 

We became leaders.  Organizers.  Teachers.  Family. 

Yes, Joplin changed us.  It shaped our experience and it molded the lives of each person who lived there, who poured in to volunteer, and who supported one another when it felt like life could no longer go on.  It changed us as individuals.  It changed us as a team.  As a community.  As a nation. 

It’s been a year since the tornado hit the ground.  It seems like it was only yesterday.  Tomarrow, another day will have passed.  But we will still remember.  It has become a part of who we are. 

God Bless and PEACE

[note: For those who missed it, the title of this post if from the movie Twister.  When asked what an EF-5 is like, the table of tornado chasers goes silent.  The response, “It is like the finger of God.”]


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