On May 22, a multiple-vortex F5 tornado struck the city of Joplin, Missouri, causing major damage and claiming the lives of over 150 people. When we heard the news, we immediately called our friend Bryan Martin at 4 State Trucks to make sure that he, his family and their workers were safe. We were happy to hear that they were okay and that the business was unharmed, but as the pictures from the storm surfaced, it was clear that they were the fortunate few. We asked Bryan to submit a personal account of the tragedy so our readers could have a better understanding of what happened (and is still happening) in Joplin.
Here we are in Joplin, MO and it’s been three weeks since the tornado came through. We thought of our lil’ town much like you probably think about yours – an F5 tornado – never happen here. Boy, we were mistaken. We were traveling home from a truck show in Nebraska when we got the initial reports of the storm. The DJ on the radio, which was operating on generator power because the electricity was out – could only report what he saw through the window, as the TV stations were knocked out, too. Just like the DJ, we had no idea of the severity of the tornado as we sped towards Joplin to check on our family and friends.
As we entered the outskirts of town and began encountering the mess of traffic trying to get past the debris, power lines, overturned cars, downed trees and other obstacles to check on loved ones and help those trapped and injured, we thought we had a grasp as to the horrendous damage the tornado had done to Joplin – but we didn’t. All through the night we heard sirens, and when sunrise finally came, we could fully see the merciless destruction and incredible power Mother Nature had unleashed on our town. Words cannot explain – it was something that had to be seen to be believed. The tornado cut a path almost a mile wide and over six miles long, beginning at the west city limits and traveling right through the heart of suburbia, as well as much of our commercial and business districts, as it went completely beyond the east boundary of the city. It was without a doubt a storm like nobody from this area had seen before.
Although the loss, pain and damage brought tears to our eyes, the teamwork, the genuine care shown by all of our neighbors, and the “I’m here to help – what do you need?” attitude of the citizens and volunteers created a warm spot in our hearts as the region pulled together like never before. What was merely a city before, is now a family.
Folks were committed to help wherever they could and the churches built a network that offered food, shelter and hygiene items to those in need. The hospitals set up mobile care facilities all over, much like MASH units, and the Red Cross, National Guard and Highway Patrol worked with the local and regional law enforcement like never before. Volunteer fire departments came from all over to assist with the search and rescue efforts. The things I have witnessed since this catastrophe screams out to me, saying, “The heart of America is still inherently good – we do feel our neighbor’s pain. And when the going gets tough, our desire as true Americans is to lend a hand, to make the situation better for the innocent victims.”
Many heroes have come to light during this situation – people worked hours and hours without rest, with virtually no equipment, in wet, adverse conditions, to search for survivors and get injured victims to safety. If not for the efforts of these valiant “everyday” people, the number of fatalities could have easily been double. Our hats go off to these brave, tireless souls as we say a sincere “THANK YOU” to each and every one of them.
As for our crew at 4 State Trucks, everyone made it through. Several lost homes or sustained damage that caused them to relocate, but none of us had life-threatening injuries or lost an immediate family member. Our work facility escaped damage and we are very thankful for this. The week after the tornado we fielded hundreds of e-mails, phone calls and messages from many of our customers and friends who wanted to make sure that we were okay. Trucking groups such as OOIDA, Truckers Charity and many others also called wanting to know where to go with truckloads of donated items. It just goes to show that truckers really do stick together and look out for one another.
There are still volunteers arriving daily to work with churches and local organizations who are doing service projects for those still in need. Just today I ran into a fella from Virginia who works at the Utility Trailer dealer in his area. He and a bunch of his buddies all took a week off to come to Joplin and assist with the cleanup efforts. This is merely one volunteer group of the thousands who have traveled to Joplin over the last few weeks to help. Someone said to me the other day, “I’ve heard some terrible and sad stories regarding this awful tornado, but for every tragic story, I’ve heard 50 amazing, remarkable, heartwarming stories that can only be interpreted as miracles.” Yep, today I’m proud to be from Joplin, Missouri – USA!
I’d like to send out a sincere “THANK YOU” to each and every individual that has assisted, in one way or another, those who were affected by this tragic storm. Whether you came to town to assist, sent donated items or financial assistance, or just said a silent prayer for those of us who were hurting, it was all VERY MUCH appreciated and recognized. God Bless – Bryan Martin.
~ Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the residents of Joplin, and we hope yours are, too. On a final note, we at 10-4 Magazine would like to invite everyone to join us at Bryan’s 3rd annual “Guilty by Association” Truck Show, held on September 30th-October 1st, at their store and shop located on I-44 at Exit #4 in Joplin, MO. Come out and help us celebrate Joplin’s resilience, the storm recovery, and show respect for both the city of Joplin and the great trucking industry that has thrived there for the last 60 years! For more details, please visit www.chromeshopmafia.com or give them a call at (888) 875-7787 ext 111.