Sunday, March 11, 2012

Restore Joplin: Day One

After a VERY long day of planes, trains and automobiles (ok just cars, planes, and 15-passenger vans I guess), we finally made it to Joplin around 4pm yesterday afternoon. We spent a few hours waiting at the Joplin airport for the vans to be ready, where we saw another group of college students who had just completed their week of restore. That really got us excited when they exclaimed how great their week was and how much fun they had. We were also welcomed to Joplin by some gracious residents and airport employees who were so happy to have us help with the clean up and restoration. We took this time to get to know each other a little better, playing name games, "two truths and a lie", and took some funny (and some pretty ridiculous) pictures.

Hungry, anxious, and completely exhausted, we got to dinner last night and couldn't wait to dig in. As a group of 26 people with northern accents, we knew we were bound to get some questioning from other people around us. A man and his son were seated at the table next to us, and sure enough, he inquired about our origins. When we told him who we were and what we were doing here, he paused for a moment, pursed his lips in what looked like an effort to hold some tears back, and said how truly grateful he was that we were there and that he was so proud of us for taking the time to come down and lend a hand. We said we couldn't be happier to help, and with that, he got up and left. A moment later, the manager of the restaurant came over to us and said that an anonymous customer had already paid $100 of our bill. That right there proved that we were meant to do great things this week, and we owed it to the residents of Joplin to help make their lives even a little better.

Another staple moment of the trip so far was just this morning, when we drove the path that the tornado took that fateful day just 10 months ago. We saw houses with roofs torn off, trees completely uprooted, and a scene that was just simply unimaginable. Visiting Joplin High School, now appropriately renamed "Hope High School" was truly a sight. Completely destroyed, we learned that these students have been moved to the Northpark Mall (which we saw this morning also) to resume classes this year. An overwhelming sense of emotion rang through all of us when we saw the ruins of the school building. To know that they are persevering and moving on with life is so uplifting and it makes what we're doing here feel even better.

Time for dinner now.. nothing like a huge vat of pasta for 26 people :) More to come later this week!


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