Thursday, May 26, 2011

Joplin Search and Rescue through the eyes of my son

I feel badly that every time I post something, something changes, and I have to edit it later! I found out last night that Randy and Tim's kind of blood was not wanted (AB and A-), only O- was wanted, so they were not able to give on Monday. They were told if they drove somewhere else they could give blood.

On Tuesday and Wednesdays, they volunteered with Search and Rescue. They have not personally found any bodies, but where the smell of death is, they call in to the leaders to send dogs and more qualified personnel. They have been placed in groups of 30-50 volunteers who walk a set pathway across the devastation, looking, digging, moving rubble, searching for missing people.

Tim told me about the organizer of the volunteers last night. He is a local businessman, but former Marine Major. He personally was responsible for finding 7 bodies on Monday in the Elks Club. He was so adamant about searching that he nearly got in trouble for being in the damaged zone. After he showed his "stuff" by finding the bodies, and told the authorities people want to help and need to be organized to do it, he was put in charge of the organizing of volunteers. On Tuesday there were ~700 people and Wednesday ~300. He puts professional volunteers and public volunteers into teams; they have a name and everyone is numbered and your team name and number are written on your arm in Sharpie. Everyone wears caution vests. Everyone works together spread out over an area, and they walk. They have missions (areas to cover), and have rest, food, and water breaks.

Yesterday, Tim said they arrived at one broken house and the people were fearful and even cried. Why were they crying? They had arrived at their house earlier and several men in caution vests and hard hats were carrying out their possessions, looting, stealing! So they thought more people had come to steal from them. Tim and the others showed them their markings that they were officially part of the Search and Rescue team. It is so very sad that people would masquerade as helpers and steal from the people who have lost so much. There are police and sheriff deputies trying to make sure looting doesn't happen, but they can't catch them all. Tim said a deputy asked him yesterday to prove his status, and he showed the Sharpie markings on his arm.

One part of town that they covered yesterday was not very badly damaged; people were already getting the trees cut up, the tarps on the roofs, the trash picked up. Some wondered why they were there (searching for people who had been taken up in the tornado, who could have dropped out in that area); most were grateful that there were volunteers willing to spend their days trying to help.

Yesterday, Randy and Tim took advantage of the medic tents that are set up in the area to get tetanus shots. They had splinters and cuts that happen even though they are wearing gloves. One day Tim stepped on a nail that went through his boot and partially into his foot. There are nails everywhere, of course. I'm glad they got the shot, because who knows what they are being exposed to.

One place where the smell of death was so strong, they were searching for the source, when the owner of the demolished house came up to them, wondering what was the problem. He said maybe the smell was coming from the deer skin he had put in the trashcan on Sunday. Sure enough, that was the source. It was a moment of relief, but oh, how smelly a moment!

It is strange how some things are not moved when all around there is destruction! A vase of flowers on a table, the smelly trashcan still upright... Who knows why?

Several of Randy and Tim's employees have been working the Search and Rescue with them. Two of them are directly affected by the tornado. One has to move out of his damaged apartment. The other one lost everything. His home was destroyed and when he arrived there to see what was salvageable, anything of value had already been looted. He is a brand new Christian who is left with only the clothes on his back. His beautiful van, which used to be "wrapped" in the devil's wrapping, is destroyed. Yet he has been working Search and Rescue the last two days.

Several of the houses Randy and Tim's company, ABE Painting, just finished painting were in the destruction zone. Several more they were going to paint this week and next are also gone.

One mother of Sunday School children who come to their church dropped off her five children to Randy and Joy's yesterday, saying she has to move out of her apartment because of damage. The children needed baths and clean clothes; at least one of them has lice in her hair. Joy and Brenda were left with those children for maybe five days! This particular person has taken advantage of our kids many times. It is hard to know what to do. You want to help, but you don't appreciate being taken advantage of! Randy and Tim are paying their guys to help with Search and Rescue, while not doing painting jobs to make money. I know my kids have it easy compared to people who have lost everything, but I am praying God will help them, protect them, and make up to them all the sacrifices they make.

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