Kristi Preddy and I have spent the past three days with the Missing Persons Unit in Joplin. Other counselors from Cassville, Exeter, Purdy, Marionville and Monett have been there also counseling, manning the phones and gathering information on the missing. I am so proud of our southwest area counselors. I cannot describe to you the enormity of the loss and devastation - there are just no words.
A doctor that was there said he has never seen so much blood - wounded and dead were lying next to each other in row after row. You may have heard the interview with the woman whose husband threw himself on top of her to protect her and died doing so. I worked with her and her family at the unit. Her 92-year-old grandfather, who lived just down the street, survived because a piece of plywood landed on top of him and protected him.
I think one of the saddest things I saw was a little girl sitting on a cot in a shelter. She was very petite, but she may have been around 4. A woman was standing before her talking to an officer, but I got the impression she was not the little girl's mother. The little girl was not whining or doing any of the things a normal 4-year-old would be doing while waiting for an adult to finish talking. Instead, she sat there silently, her hands folded and feet together, with tears streaming down her face. There are so many stories: the sad, the jubilant, the horror.
Of course, you know the high school is a total loss, and a teacher told me they have now added an additional elementary to make a total of four buildings destroyed. A priority job for all Joplin administrators, teachers and counselors has been to locate and list the status of every Joplin student. They are doing this with very little for phone service with many survivors scattered into shelters, hospitals in at least four states or with relatives elsewhere. To top that off, employees of the school district themselves have lost homes and families also.
There has been a lot of frustration over connecting with deceased or missing family members. I hope people will remember that it is vitally important that the body of a loved one is given to the correct family, and that some of the dead will have to be identified by DNA alone - F5 tornados don't leave our fragile bodies all neat and undamaged.
When I left yesterday, there were still 1,300 missing people. As far as volunteering, they indeed have been turning people away, because so many want to help in any way they can. We all know though that the process of rebuilding will take years, so I would ask that you not forget the people of Joplin this summer, next fall or next year when there will still be a huge need for counseling, cleaning debris, rebuilding homes. Next fall, I hope that some of your fundraisers will be for kids of the Joplin District and for the City of Joplin.
Being in Joplin has reminded me that my problems are indeed miniscule. When I got in the shower last night, I thought about all of those in the shelters sitting in the clothes they were wearing when it hit - with no shower. When I climbed into bed with the mattress that I love and clean sheets, I thought of those in the shelter on cots six inches from the next cot.
Keep all of the people of Joplin in your thoughts and prayers, and please do anything you can for them in the months ahead - remember, they don't get to have a summer vacation from this.
professional school counselor, Cassville High School
Note: The number of missing in Joplin has decreased significantly since Bussman wrote the above letter. On Tuesday, the number of missing was listed at 10.
Commencing May 14, I visited Cassville for several days. My own family couldn't have treated me any nicer than the folks of Cassville. Everyone I met was welcoming, helpful and displayed a quick smile and a wonderful sense of humor. My special gratitude to all the gents at the Misfit Cafe, Gabe, Kelly Williamson, Ted Bolten, Jerry Craig, Dave and Clay Vaught and Sheriff Epperly.
Cassville has my vote as America's most outstanding community.
Be well; live generously.