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Lessons Learned: Q&A with AmeriCorps Member and Joplin Veteran, Anna Marini

by Samantha Jo Warfield

To mark the one-year anniversary of the May 22 Joplin tornado, we'll be featuring a variety of content on the blog, including Q&As with those who served in the community, like this one.

Question: What went through your mind when you first landed in Joplin?

Marini: I was on an AmeriCorps NCCC team that was originally to St. Louis, Missouri to relieve those that were serving after those tornadoes. When our team heard the news of the Joplin tornado, we knew immediately that we would be rerouted to Joplin. We watched the destruction on the news as we packed the vans. The drive to Joplin was one of the quietest I can remember. Our teams pulled into town midday of May 23rd and were immediately put to work at the MSSU campus. We had know what we were getting into.

Question: Tell us about the moment that touched you most.

Marini: There isn't one specific moment that touched me, but first week I was there left an impact. I was put to work in the missing persons call center immediately after arriving in Joplin. I'd always thought I was good with people but I had no idea how emotionally trying this would be. Hearing stories about family members that were missing broke my heart. I spent two days in the call center before I was sent out in the field. I joined a team working with the Air Force in a search and rescue mission in the neighboring town of Duquesne. I did I was asked, determined to do my part to help.

Question: In what ways has National Service had the greatest impact in Joplin?

Marini: National Service covered Joplin with a calming blanket of hope. It seemed everywhere you turned, someone with the AmeriCorps "A" was there ready to help. I am so grateful to be part of something so wonderful.

Question: What convinced you to sign up for a second year of service?

Marini: I wasn't ready to stop serving. I knew there was more to be done. Now, I currently serve as a member of American Youthworks Environmental Corps out of Austin, Texas. I met them while serving in Joplin and as soon as I joined a crew with their members, I knew I'd sign up for another year of service with them.

Question: How have you changed? What skills have you gained since first arriving in Joplin after the storm?

Marini: Serving in Joplin has reminded me that life is short. You never know what will happen tomorrow. I'm doing as much as I can to volunteer wherever I am, to put a smile on someone's face and to tell those close to me that I love them. I am now a stronger person knowing that I can lead 500 volunteers in a safety briefing, be a part of a search and rescue team, and work on my feet for weeks at a time without a day off -- all while taking care of those around me.

Question: What do you see yourself doing in five years? How has your service in Joplin influenced that vision?

Marini: In five years I hope to still be doing my part in disaster relief and recovery or have joined the Peace Corps – maybe both! I am an ever-changing person but I know deep down in my heart that I want to help others when they need it the most. Joplin has helped me to see that disasters aren't going to stop and we need to be on our toes all the time. My heart will always be in Joplin and it's an experience I will never forget.

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