Story by John
DateD: Tuesday, May 24, 2011, 3:21 PM
Graphics and graphic commentary by BJ
OK everybody; here we go… what a ride it has been. I just woke up from crashing finally. I was at work at Freeman hospital when the tornado hit. I was the ONLY maintenance man on the evening shift. The alert sounded, said it was a warning for Carl Junction which is 10 miles north of where we were. I started all the generators, 10 of them, just in case.
When the storm hit we did not realize what had happened only 1/4 north of us at St Johns, not until the caravans of people started coming in. St Johns took a direct hit, blew out all the windows, and then had a gas leak and an explosion. The tornado was about 8 blocks wide and went through Joplin West to East, never left the ground. Residential… business… residential… main business. We had people coming in pickups with wounded, cars with all the windows blown out. People on boards, doors, tables. We emptied 4 conference rooms of the rolling chairs, about 100 to use as wheel chairs. We had 4 triage areas going full blast, one at each entrance. People were lined up for 10 blocks or more just to get to our driveways. We had just gone through an earthquake drill last week, so everyone knew their supplies were. It was calm chaos.
Hundreds of wounded, covered in blankets, sitting in chairs, lying on the floor in rows. Blood everywhere… new chairs coming now for sure…. the nurses and doctors were great. Our phones were out instantly… the cell towers were inundated couldn’t get out. We couldn’t call for reinforcements… they just started showing up. From everywhere… EMT’s, nurses, doctors, local and even from out of town. The few in the kitchen started making sandwiches; we brought out all the blankets we had, brought up rolling supply carts of bandages, cases of bottled water. We formed small groups of volunteers to manage traffic so the ambulances could get in and out. School buses of injured started coming in, truckers were bringing in semi loads of injured. No lights in Joplin, we have a six story tower and all you could see were blue and red lights everywhere. I personally took the 1st six bodies and started a temporary morgue. The stories people were telling were beyond belief… we had probably 10 or 12 dogs running somewhat loose in the hospital that people had brought in with them. People were smoking in the hospital on a no smoking campus. Cries of pain, sorrow and yes even joy when people would find loved ones.
The situation in town is way WORSE than you see on TV. I came home in the dark and did not know where I was because of the destruction, until I came to a roundabout in the road and realized I had gone a mile too far. I couldn’t get through to Sandy on the phones and people started coming in from the area I lived in with horror stories of total destruction. The home depot you see on TV is just blocks from us… finally another employee came in and said his mom was ok and she just lives two blocks from us. The tornado just missed my son by two blocks as well. My daughter in law is a therapist and has no office building to go to anymore, her father is a dentist who has no office building to go to anymore.
Joplin will take years to rebuild. Kinda like the twin towers, you can actually see all the way
through town, end to end. The high school is gone. A major business street, going east and west on the east of town is flat on both sides of the street for two miles. Nothing left standing. Thousands of people have lost their homes, and their possessions, AND their income because their places of employment have vanished off the map.
On the other hand, THANK THE LORD, I have my home, my possessions and my job. I never had to serve in combat, but surely this has to be somewhat similar in relation of chaos. I kinda know what the Japanese must feel like after the tsunami now. Yes I know some of the dead in Joplin personally.
Freeman hospital still looks kinda like it did that night. We still have STUFF everywhere. The floor is still dirty because Joplin has virtually no water pressure. We barely have enough water to run our sterilizers for instruments. Only two bathrooms work in the hospital… don’t know why they do… the water company has SO MANY broken pipes in houses that are gone, that they can’t get the pressure to come up. A large area of the roof blew off and the rain collected and ran down in-between the layers of roofing and into the areas full of pipes and wires and is still dripping and of course the rain won’t stop so we can fix the roof. We have buckets all over the halls and even have a couple of areas of rooms we can’t even use because the water keeps coming out of the ceiling area. We have removed hundreds of ceiling tiles that have gotten wet and were coming down anyway. The fire alarms keep going off all the time because the wiring system is getting wetter and wetter with all the leaks. We have to check each alarm to make sure there is no fire and then silence it.
PLEASE PRAY FOR US. A LOT OF PEOPLE’S LIVES ARE CHANGED FOREVER. MINE IS. AND I AM ALRIGHT. THANKS FOR ALL THE CALLS; SORRY THE PHONES STILL DON’T WORK VERY WELL. WE ARE ON CURFEW DUSK TO DAWN WITH NATIONAL GUARD AT HUNDREDS OF INTERSECTIONS. A 15 MINUTE DRIVE TO HOME TOOK ME AN HOUR. ONLY MY FREEMAN BADGE LET ME THROUGH. MAYBE I WILL WRITE MORE LATER. NOW I’M GOING BACK TO SLEEP. JOHN
HE NEVER SAID IT WOULD BE EASY… HE JUST SAID FOLLOW ME
BLESSINGS TO YOU FROM JOHN AND SANDY