By Debby Woodin
Fire Chief Mitch Randles will participate in a ceremony today at the state Capitol to thank Missouri fire and rescue teams and ambulance crews for coming to the aid of Joplin after the May 22 tornado.
Randles will speak, along with state officials, at a ceremony at 11 a.m. today in the rotunda of the Capitol in Jefferson City.
“We are going to take a few moments to thank all of those who helped us after the tornado,” Randles said. He said he will present medals of appreciation personally to about a dozen departments that went an extra step to answer Joplin’s call for aid. All of those who came will be sent medals afterward, Randles said.
Gov. Jay Nixon proclaimed the day as a salute to those across the state because of their work in severe weather disasters such as the Joplin’s EF-5 tornado, which claimed 161 lives and was recorded as the most deadly in the nation in 60 years.
“In 2011, Missouri’s fire service, search and rescue teams and ambulance districts performed heroic duties, responding to one of the most destructive tornadoes in U.S. history, to other severe weather events, a blizzard and record flooding,” Nixon said in a written statement. “The work of these dedicated and high trained individuals saved and preserved lives. We cannot thank these selfless public servants enough for their sacrifices to make all of us safer.”
There were 119 fire and rescue services and 68 ambulance districts in Missouri who came to Joplin. There were 37 Missouri ambulance districts and four from outside the state that responded.
Jerry Lee, state director of the Department of Public Safety, and Randy Cole, the state fire marshal, will speak at the ceremony too.
“Missouri firefighters have dedicated their lives to serving and protecting the state’s communities and they have proven that jurisdictional borders do not matter when it comes to responding to save lives,” said Cole in a written statement. “We must also recognize the families of firefighters who themselves make sacrifices so that their loved ones can continue to serve.”
The first call reporting tornado damage in Joplin came into dispatchers at 5:41 p.m. on May 22. That is the time that has been observed by the city in remembrances of the disaster.