When I returned, I wrote the following post on a work blog:
|The sign outside the Joplin Humane Society|
|Two of the warehouses used for shelter. The third one (for cats) was just past these two.|
|One of the shelters...this one is for stray dogs.|
|The intake area of the shelter.|
A woman I worked with in the shelter, who has responded to many disasters and who has become a dear friend said it best: "I walk away in awe of the strength of the people of Joplin, the size of their hearts and their love for their animals. An amazing community. We are always touched by the animals, but to be brought to tears over and over again by the people of Joplin was a powerful lesson in humanity."
|A map of the actual area struck by the tornado.|
This post captures some feelings I had when I came back, but doesn't really scratch the surface when it comes to the impact this event had on all of us. The outpouring of support from around the world was awe-inspiring. I volunteered with people from across the nation and I guarantee, each and every one of us has a memory from our time in Joplin that constantly pops in our head. We worked long, hard hours, but everywhere we looked reminded us of why we were doing what we did.
It's hard to believe it has only been a year since this tragedy. When I returned to Kansas City after my eight days, I was emotionally exhausted and drained. It took me a couple of weeks to return to my normal self, but I don't think I ever returned to being the person I was before I left. This experience changed me and continues to remind me of the importance in each and every day. We are still going to have our ups and downs and we are still going to laugh and cry, but, for many of us who were there, we remember to hug our loved ones a little more and try to not let the little things get us down.
If I could only take away one thing from this experience, it's remembering how precious life is and how quickly it can change. None of us know how we are going to react in such devastating circumstances, but if we can live our life with passion and vigor, we can take anything that happens. We never know what is going to happen and I, for one, don't want to leave any cards facedown on the table when the game is over.
I was only there for eight days and I didn't have to go through what the people of Joplin did. I only came down to help out with what I could and never imagined how much the people and animals of Joplin would touch my heart. I think about them all the time and know, after meeting so many residents, that Joplin is stronger after what happened. There is still a huge scar across the city, but it is healing and the people I met will never let this scar take away their spirit.