Source: Sherman Publications

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Locals travels to aid Joplin tornado victims

by David Fleet

June 01, 2011

The stories of survival are many.

A family of five was found in a bathtub when the house was lifted off the ground from around them—when the storm cleared they were safe—the house was gone. A man laid down in a hallway covered his head as the walls caved in around him forming a tepee —the house was gone but he remained safe.

According to news reports, when the May 22 Joplin tornado ripped through the town of about 50,000 located in southwestern Missouri it left in its path 139 known dead and destroyed at least 8,000 houses and apartment buildings.

Pat Rourke husband of Seymour Lake United Methodist Church pastor LuAnn Rourke traveled with church member Scott Clark to Joplin to assist with the clean up on May 27.

The survivors of the EF-5, or the strongest possible tornado continue to recover the loss of family members, and for many their homes as well.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are on the scene along with hundreds of volunteers including some from Brandon Township.

"I cried," said Rourke after arriving in Joplin. "You would not believe the destruction down here. It looked like a bomb went off. Most of the survivors are now taken care of but the devastation to their property is unreal. Still there's a great amount of volunteerism in America— it's amazing—people are on the street corners passing out water—food survivors is available."

Rourke's working with Samaritan's Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan's Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing

"My job down here is to gather up as much of the raw materials as possible. There's litter everywhere—it's a path six miles long and a half of a mile wide. Right now we're working in a subdivision with a crew from all over the United States—some from Indiana, some from Colorado. It's just amazing how much people help."

"Most of the victims don't care about having cloths to ware, rather they want small items from their home. One man wanted his collection of quarters, another family wanted their McDonald's toys. Many of the homes are not safe to go back into due to damage."

The trip to assist after a disaster is not new to Rourke.

In 2005, Rourke along with others worked several weeks in the New Orleans area following Hurricane Katrina.

"Like Katrina the distribution of items is amazing. The big difference is with Katrina the floods that followed washed everything away—here in Joplin it's spread out over a few miles. Also, unlike Katrina there's been no reports of looting."

Rourke said he will return to Michigan on June 3 and will make a second trip to Joplin to help toward the end of June.

"That wind destroyed a hospital and high school, not to mention sheared branches off 100 year old trees. Still power crews are working to get the town going again—the will of these people is amazing."