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AmeriCorps

In the wake of the nation’s deadliest tornado in six decades, more than 80 AmeriCorps members are working night and day to assist first responders and victims in the recovery efforts in Joplin, MO.

With the death toll at 126, more than 700 people injured, and thousands of structures destroyed, the EF-5 tornado that struck Joplin last Sunday flattened everything in its path, leaving residents to scramble to find missing family members and find immediate shelter.

As a native of Long Island, the attacks of September 11th, 2001 hit close to home for Tracy Connelly. Loved ones working in the World Trade Center were missing. Family members responding to the attacks were injured. For 36 hours, she had no idea where her father was. Days after the events, Connelly learned of friends' deaths by passing their memorials in Penn Station.

On May 22, 2011, an EF-5 tornado struck my hometown of Joplin, Missouri. Nearly every resident was affected. The tornado destroyed approximately 18,000 vehicles, 7,000 homes, 5,000 businesses, and took the lives of 162 people, including two of my high school classmates.

At 2:00 AM, on May 23rd, just eight hours after a deadly EF-5 tornado tore through Joplin, MO, the AmeriCorps St. Louis Emergency Response Team arrived in a community devastated by the latest in a string of natural disasters.

New Orleans knows a lot about service. The city has a rich history steeped in volunteerism and national service. They also know, perhaps more than any other U.S. City, that service plays a critical role in transforming a place that suffered unimaginable destruction.

After Hurricane Katrina, the city once known for its lively and colorful neighborhoods, personalities, and culture was left shaken – swimming in floodwater and debris. At that point, it was hard to imagine that the city would ever return to its once vibrant self. Yet, just six years later, New Orleans has been reborn.

No matter where disaster strikes, National Service is there. Our AmeriCorps members have been on the ground in Joplin since the F5 tornado touched down on May 22nd.

At a press conference last Tuesday, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon had this to say about the AmeriCorps members serving in the Joplin area: “I pushed more volunteers your way than maybe I should have. But I had the understanding that I could trust your operation. It appears I was right.”

On the Sunday evening of May 22, Bruce Bailey, founder of the AmeriCorps St. Louis Emergency Response Team, had just arrived at a barbecue in Kansas City with his colleagues and buddies.

Zack Rosenburg was living a comfortable life as an attorney in Washington, DC when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005. And while Americans came from all over to New Orleans to help, Zack took the extra step of leaving his job, moving to New Orleans and devoting himself fully to the recovery.

For many AmeriCorps members, finishing a term of service is not an ending, but the beginning of a life dedicated to public service and improving the lives of others.

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