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On the Ground in Joplin, Missouri

  • May 25, 2011

Shattered City Struggles to Recover from Deadly Tornado

Emergency response expert, Jessica Ginger, arrived in the tornado-ravaged city of Joplin on May 24 to meet with the director of our partner free clinic now serving as a dispensary of crucial medications to patients in need.  

AmeriCares rushed two cases of acute respiratory medication to the clinic and is preparing additional targeted shipments of chronic care medicines and supplies based on needs, along with truckloads of water to the local Red Cross for distribution to shelters.

After a day of assessing critical needs for victims in this city still reeling in the aftermath of disaster, Jessica offers a firsthand account of the devastation and the need for ongoing relief.  

“In minutes part of this city was swept away…”

The breadth of destruction is unfathomable. I have never seen nor could I imagine such complete devastation – in minutes part of this city was swept away. Three schools, including the high school are gone. Two fire stations were hit. The largest hospital needs to be gutted and rebuilt. The bark was torn off the trees. But what struck me most were the vast fields of rubble that were homes just two days ago.

Yet, the resilience I witnessed was awe-inspiring. Everyone was grateful to be alive and focusing on the immediate tasks: getting people in need access to health care, delivering food to neighbors, minimizing the damage. I heard story after inspiring story of strangers showing up with food, or with pickup trucks to remove debris, or with chainsaws to clear fallen trees – despite the lightning and rain. I passed a woman and young boy in a pickup holding baskets of foil-wrapped hamburgers ready to give to anyone in need.  

Across the street from our partner clinic is Memorial Hall, an entertainment venue now serving as a makeshift medical center for displaced doctors from the damaged St. John’s Medical Center. Memorial Hall is a hub of activity as doctors triage patient flow and treat those that require immediate medical attention, while the clinic serves as a dispensary for needed medicines.

Chronic care medications, pain relievers and antibiotics are in short supply and have been identified as urgent needs. People with chronic heart disease and diabetes in particular, as well as asthma, require continued therapy, and many here have lost their entire supply.

Memorial Hall serves as Joplin’s makeshift medical center.

Memorial Hall serves as Joplin’s makeshift medical center.

Patients at the clinics and at the make-shift triage still appear to be in shock. Others are using the triage center to get needed clothing and water. 

My first night in Joplin was a sleepless one, with tornadoes forecast here and also in my hometown in Arkansas. I drifted off, waking to reports of a twister hitting Arkansas and one spotted nearby. I grew up in a tornado zone – but this was truly scary. I can’t imagine how the night felt for those who survived Sunday night’s EF5 tornado.

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