The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Tornado: Mike Pound

May 29, 2011

Mike Pound: When push comes to shove

JOPLIN, Mo. — People packed into the Taylor Performing Arts Center on Sunday at Missouri Southern State University to pay tribute.

They packed into the building to pay tribute to those who lost their lives, were injured or lost their homes in the May 22 tornado.

They packed into the building to pay tribute to a medical community that did amazing work under horrific conditions.

They packed into the building to pay tribute to the emergency response personnel who helped search for and who rescued tornado victims, put out fires, handled myriad traffic problems and watched over property.

They packed into the building to pay tribute to the thousands of people who have flooded the town offering donations of food, supplies, money and strong backs.

And they packed into the building to pay tribute to a remarkable community that was knocked down by a sharp shot to the jaw and managed to jump up off the canvas before the 10-count even began.

There were a lot of government types in the building Sunday. There were city government folks, there were state government folks and there were federal government folks. I think that makes sense. If there ever was a time that the government deserved a some pats on the back, it’s now.

Let’s face it. In the aftermath of one of the deadliest tornadoes in recent memory, the government worked. City police, fire and ambulance personal responded seconds after the tornado touched down. They were joined by the county sheriff people and the Missouri Highway Patrol. They were joined by emergency personnel from other cities, counties and states. They were later joined by federal emergency and rescue people and later still by folks from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration. In fact, there have been so many government people, of all levels, working tirelessly in Joplin this past week, it’s impossible to list them all.

For some folks, the government has always been an easy target. For some folks, the government is a big, bloated monster so incompetent that it shouldn’t be allowed to run an elevator.

And, to be honest, sometimes the government acts that way. But, when it matters, when folks really need the government, it comes through for them. It does what it is supposed to do. It works.

That really shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Because the “government” is not a thing. The government is people. The government is Missouri Highway Patrol Sgt. Mike Watson, who lives two blocks from me and whose daughter has grown up with my daughter. The government is the firefighter who plays on your softball team. The government is your co-worker on the National Guard. The government is the nice guy who delivers your mail.

Speaking of that, can we give a hand to the folks at the Joplin Post Office? Faced with the impossible task of handling mail addressed to addresses that no longer existed, the post office went to work and pulled off that impossible task and is still doing so.

I once got into a brief debate during a Globe editorial meeting with an area politician and, in the debate, he made sort of a derisive comment about the postal service.. After that meeting, one of the other Globe employees said he wondered what his grandfather, a long-time postal worker, would have made of that politician’s post office jab. It was a good question.

Look, our government is not perfect. But neither are people. But when push comes to shove, when it really matters we, as a town, a state and a nation are there for each other.

We’ve been there for each other this past week, and we will be there for each other in tough days, weeks, months and years to come.

It’s what we do.

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Tornado: Mike Pound