Monday marks 100 days since the worst tornado in our country in the past 70 years tore through our community, leaving lost lives and destroyed property in its wake. As I have said before, that fateful day in late May will be the defining moment in all of our lives whether we want it to be or not.
During the one week’s moment of silence observation at Cunningham Park, I asked the citizens of Joplin, in my own imperfect way, to honor the lives of those citizens we lost by channeling our energies into our debris removal and rebuilding efforts. This thought occurred to me at about 2 a.m. the previous night on my front porch, during one of many successive sleepless nights. You, the citizens of Joplin and others, have done what I suggested in a manner I never dreamed of under the stars late that Saturday night.
We have been aided in that effort by many others from throughout the country (and the entire world for that matter), and when combined with our citizens’ efforts we have unveiled the miracle of the human spirit. That collective effort has miraculously transformed a storm-ravaged Joplin in these brief 100 days. The miracle of the human spirit has been displayed in many ways since the tornado:
• 1. The inflow of 5,000 first responders from throughout the state, region and country following the storm to assist us in our recovery efforts.
• 2. The unbelievable volunteer and professional aid and care provided to citizens who suffered injuries in the moments and days following the tornado.
• 3. The 85,000 registered volunteers (with an estimated twice as many unregistered) who have poured into Joplin to assist us in debris removal braving temperatures as high as 110 degrees in doing so.
• 4. The support, financially and otherwise, that we have received from throughout the world aiding us in our recovery efforts.
• 5. The city-led, unified effort involving these volunteers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers and citizens to remove 300 million cubic yards of debris in a 68-day time frame.
• 6. The reuniting of nearly 500 displaced animals with their owners in the weeks following the storm, as well as the adoption of 745 animals (all on hand) in an adoption effort on June 25-26 by people from throughout the country.
• 7. The installation of manufactured housing in record time to accommodate displaced citizens and provide them a sense of independence while they rebuild, and enabling Joplin’s displaced citizens to remain close to town to ensure the stability of our population base.
• 8. The Joplin School District setting and achieving a goal to reopen temporary schools on time and enable families a return to a sense of normalcy.
• 9. The incredible outpouring of food, household items, clothing, water and other materials that has and continues to fill warehouses throughout our area.
• 10. Many other efforts too numerous to mention in this limited amount of space.
But our work is not done yet. We need to refocus the attitude and energies we have all displayed in these first 100 days of recovery to the rebuilding efforts we are now starting in Joplin.
Let us remember what has brought us this far and channel and direct that spirit of compassion, giving and cooperation into our continuing efforts,and bring back Joplin stronger and better than we were, in honor of the friends, loved ones and family members that we have lost. Let us make sure that we all continue to display the miracle of the human spirit to guarantee our second 100 days and beyond are as impactful as the first 100 days have been.
Mark Rohr is the Joplin city manager.