Many of you know that my entire family lives in Joplin, Missouri. And that means they recently went through the tornado. Here’s an update on my last home time. It wasn’t all devastation and destruction though. Oh. And this post has got absolutely nothing to do with trucking. Other than the fact that it had me 1400 miles away when the tornado touched down.[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
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With Taco Bell in hand, The Evil Overlord and I dropped in to see my mom and brother after they lost their home to the tornado that ripped Joplin, Missouri to shreds. And for those of you wondering about that living arrangement, I assure you that my older brother isn’t a serial killer. He has OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). And not the cute kind you see in the movies. The real kind. God bless my mom. Hey wait a second, serial killers always turn out to be “such a nice man.” Hmm. I better keep an eye on him. LOL
Over the undefinable goodness of Mexican Pizzas, they described what they remembered of the actual event, which was surprisingly little. Mom said she wasn’t particularly worried about the tornado warning because she’d been in so many before and nothing ever came of it. I’ll bet she’s not the only one who’s been through a tornado that had those thoughts. Tim was getting concerned and was trying to decide whether he should head to the bathtub or not. When a tornado is on the way, I’m guessing it’s not a very good time to have OCD. Not that there is a good time for it. Mom was in her bedroom and remembers looking out the window and seeing a branch blowing violently. That’s when it hit.
Tim remembered a window shattering. Mom remembered getting throw down at the end of the bed. They both said it sounded like the loudest freight train in the world. Since that’s pretty much how everyone describes it, that didn’t exactly surprise me. Next thing they knew, they were both buried in rubble, mom with her heavy sewing table forming a little roof over her head (thank God for old-fashioned, well-built furniture) and Tim was buried in an awkward fetal position with his arm behind his back.
They have no idea how long they were buried before some neighbors came calling. After they got unburied, they were on their way to a neighbors place when the authorities came and told them to go down the street to a safe haven. They were concerned that the gas lines might ignite. Yikes! That’s when my sister (Angi) and her husband (Mike) showed up and took control of the situation. Thank God my sis is good at stuff like this, because I was in Vermont at the time. Mom and Tim stayed with them for the next few days while they sorted through the rubble.
Here’s the thing. This devastating event once again confirms why I’d like to give every member of the media a shoulder ride while walking under a running helicopter. There was lots of reporting on the looting and other horrific stories, but very few reports of the good deeds that were done. Everyone remembers the “Christian” wacko that predicted the rapture the day before. Very little was said about the real Christians who helped in the aftermath of the storm.
My family said that every single day they were going through the debris, a church group (Christian) came by and offered food, drink, and sometimes even gift cards to help the survivors. One man came by and asked Mike if he used to live there. Mike explained that he owned the house, but mom and Tim lived there. The guy handed him a $200 gift card and walked away.
Now I don’t know if this guy was a Christian or not, but I’m gonna go ahead and claim him as one of ours. That sounds like something Jesus would do. Even if he wasn’t, where were this guy’s good deeds on the news? Where were the stories about the Christian churches that helped? If a “Christian” church shows up to protest a soldier’s funeral or tell a town that their city was hit by a tornado because they’re a bunch of sinners, the media is all over it. An act of kindness? Well, that’s not good TV. Grrrrr. Anyone got a helicopter handy?
Okay. Off the soapbox. Now for the positives of the aftermath. Although the house was leveled, they somehow managed to salvage a lot of their belongings. They were going to need new beds and living room furniture, but not because they were blown away by the 200 mph winds. It was the rain that fell nearly every day for the next week that ruined them.
Luckily, that home was a rental (unluckily owned by my brother-in-law and sister) and mom and Tim’s old place hadn’t sold yet. So at least they had a home to go to. Many Joplin residents are still holed up in hotel rooms. Angi and Mike set them up with beds and a new TV. An uncle provided a nice leather couch. It seems that when the new wife doesn’t like it, it’s gotta go anyway. The washer and dryer survived. Even a delicate vase of moms managed to survive. Now their minivan had a metal stake through the headrest, but a fragile vase survives without a scratch. Tornados are weird like that. Even the majority of Tim’s vast music collection was saved. His cassettes are probably ruined by the rain, but his CD’s and vinyl records seems to have survived.
Their only physical damage was cuts and bruises. They said mom’s face displayed every color of the rainbow over the course of two weeks. By the time I got there two weeks after the storm, they were both pretty well healed up. And for the record, my sister told me not to come home early to help. She said they were limited by the rain as to how much they could actually do. I did have dispatch head me back closer to home and run me around there just in case they needed me.
All said and done, they came out of this with more emotional damage than physical or monetary. Sure, they lost some personal stuff, but the most important stuff survived: them and all the family photos. And that’s pretty darn good considering an F-5 tornado went right over their heads.
The part I regret most was the fact that I didn’t manage to go into Joplin to see the damage firsthand. I’m told that it’s eerie to stand in the middle of the rubble and look off in the distance at the now visible hospital. All the trees and houses blocked the view before. Everyone says that TV images and pictures just can’t do it justice. I had planned to drive up there before I left, but as is typical, the nephews were a handful to put to bed the night before and no one woke up in time. Speaking of those pesky nephews.
The next day was a fun day. Jacob, my 12-year-old nephew had 10 bucks burning a hole in his pocket, so good ol’ Uncle Todd took him to Wal-Mart. He bought a Super Soaker pistol for $7 and realizing that wouldn’t be much fun by himself, he tried to talk me into buying a couple more for the other two boys, Jared, 10, and Joel, 6. I did what any good uncle would do. I put a guilt trip on him. The Evil Overlord had told me not to spend any money so I said, “You realize the more money I spend, the longer I have to stay out on the road?” End of discussion. He didn’t want that. Isn’t that sweet? The little fart-knocker.
That’s when he saw the water pistols for $1 each. He grabbed three of them, two for his brothers and one for me. He then remembered taxes and deduced he didn’t have enough for the third gun. I convinced him I could afford the taxes on $10. And by the way, thank you China for making water guns that leak before you ever even pull the stinkin’ trigger.
Once home, you can probably guess what happened. As we were filling up the guns with the water hose, Jacob told hold of it. Before any of the guns were filled, everyone was soaked to the skin. What was I thinking handing the hose to a 12-year-old boy? I used to be one, for crying out loud.
Well, we had a lot of fun until things got out of hand. I hadn’t realized how powerful the stream from the water hose was until I took a direct blast to the face. I thought it was going to shove my eyeballs back into my skull and out my nose holes. A stern warning from me about spraying in the face and the soaking resumed.
Although there was some intense duck and cover Army tactics going on, the majority of the drenching consisted of standing in a line while one person soaked down the rest with the fire hose. The hoser got to shout out, “TURN!” and we all had to obey. Again, being boys, this basically involved frontal blasting while the targets covered their eyes with one hand and their “junk” with the other as the hose-holder took careful aim and laughed maniacally.
Of course, Jared eventually couldn’t resist the urge to blast me in the face when I wasn’t expecting it. And there the fun stopped. Why do kids always push their luck? When The Evil Overlord saw us all dripping at the front door, she sent us packing down the road to dry off first. I’m pretty sure she was trying to peter them out. Possibly me too. It sure worked on me. Not so much on them. Young boys are like monkeys on Red Bull.
So this home time involved mostly good news. That seems odd to say when it involved a tornado and taking fire hose blasts to tender areas. Still, it was good that I had some good news and some good times; because in a few days it was all going to go to hell in a hand basket. Stay tuned.
Photo by DVIDSHUB via Flickr