I've shopped at Walmart on 15th Street, gone past Academy Sports, eaten at Pizza Hut and bought drinks at Fast Trip. All of those businesses, along with a good part of the rest of Joplin, no longer exist after the tornado came through on Sunday. I have memories of Joplin that won't go away but the city changed forever on Sunday and I'm not sure it will ever be the same.
The spirit of Joplin is still there though. It's shown on the faces of workers digging through the rubble who aren't expecting to find anyone alive underneath but keep digging like they do. It's clear in the voices of both victims and survivors - some of whom who've lost everything, including loved ones, as on by one they call local radio station <a href="http://www.1310KZRG.com">KZRG</a> and pour their very souls out to the DJ's who've quickly gone from being our entertainers and reporters to being our brothers and friends. Yes, Joplin is alive, though it's hard to see through the piles of rubble and destruction strewn around the city.
Some don't understand why I'm so involved with relaying information about conditions in a city I don't live in and don't really have a tight connection to. All I can say to them is this is my Joplin and I feel connected to it. I feel a profound sense of loss and grief at the destruction. No, it's not the same grief or loss those who live there feel, but it is my own personal sense of loss. Perhaps I can best explain it by referencing the loss people around the country felt when New Orleans was hit by Katrina. Most had no connection to the city other than perhaps a visit or the music that came out of it. Still, the loss was there. That's how I feel about Joplin.
At the same time, though, I also feel a sense of hope. People in this part of the country are strong. The go through adversity and come out better and stronger in the end. They aren't stopped by the temporary detours life throws at them and, believe me, Joplin *will* come back. It's already started. Repairs and rebuilding are happening throughout the city. The high school is being repaired. The hospital is nearly functional again and is accepting patients, restaurants are open and people are shopping at Northpark Mall. The city survived and, while it's limping because of its wounds, it's standing on its own and starting to take its first steps.
Joplin isn't going anywhere. It's people aren't going away. It will come back stronger, better, more determined, than ever before. Setbacks will happen, but they won't stop our city. Not by a long shot.
So remember this city. Don't forget about it when the media leaves or when the interest of the nation goes elsewhere. We'll still be here because, in the end, the spirit of Joplin really is what powers this city. And that spirit cannot be destroyed by a strong wind.
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