To those who have lived through devastation as complete as a tornado, every minute following the horror of wind and chaos is a perpetual memorial to the many who did not survive to see the skies clear again.
Noon on January 31, 2012 will mark roughly eight months, eight days, and 18 hours since a cataclysmic, multi-vortex EF-5 tornado struck Joplin, MO. Like any other day, it will be a testament to the memory of those who perished, but it will also commemorate a legacy of determination and hope.
On that day, the Missouri House of Representatives will recognize the service of AmeriCorps members who responded to disaster with the most noble of human instincts -- service.
I arrived in Joplin just days after the tornado and witnessed a scale of destruction I had not seen since my time as an AmeriCorps member in Biloxi, MS, following hurricane Katrina. I saw a volunteer response as staggering in its volume, grit, and inspiration as the tornado was in its fury.
I saw teams of AmeriCorps members from Missouri, joined by scores from across the country leading volunteers by the thousand to restore Joplin. However, what my eyes could not discern -- but which was as clear as day -- was the inevitable and indelible strength of heart and spirit of those who contribute to the recovery.
Those who choose to serve are great, but those who choose to serve and then stay until the work is done are heroic. I am proud to know and to have served alongside citizens who gave of themselves in Joplin. And I am heartened that AmeriCorps will be there until the city is fully recovered.
That day may be far from now, but the honor that will be bestowed on January 31 is a reminder that that day will come, and that every hour of service since the tornado won't be in vain.
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