Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Joplin Tornado

In mid-September WBS volunteer Linda Tossing and I were very excited to present  live bird programs to the school children and teachers of Joplin, Missouri.
All the schools in Joplin, Missouri, have the Bald Eagle as a mascot
The schools that were selected by Christie Barnhart of Missouri American Water, who sponsored the programs, were chosen because they were the schools that were destroyed by the tornado.  Some children were going to school in completely different buildings located in malls and industrial parks.  Some of the schools were renovated in record time. 

The F5 tornado that hit on Sunday, May 22, 2011, devastated a 2 mile wide by 12 mile wide swath of this Midwestern town.  We could see remnants of parking areas, driveways, rubble and debris.  No standing structures were visible in the center of where the town was previously located.

The School Superintendent decided within 2 days after the tornado that the kids would all have places to go to school by the start of the new school year.  People pulled out all the stops to repair salvageable schools, and find other places for the kids whose buildings had been damaged beyond repair to go to school .
 Michael Zieloski and Tobin, a European Barn Owl with a principal and children from one of the Joplin schools
The principal pictured in the above photo with some of her school children, showed me a video from her phone from the night of the tornado.  She stood at her school facing what used to be the front of the school and shot video of the devastating scene.  She then slowly scanned the video in a complete circle.  The damage was unbelievable!  The principals of the damaged schools knew that great challenges faced them.  These dedicated principals took virtually no time off all summer long to help get their schools reconstructed or completely moved to other buildings in Joplin.  Incredibly all was ready by this Fall.

Every school in Joplin has the Eagle as its Mascot.  I took pictures of the Logos/Mascots at two of the schools--Mckinley and Duchesne. 

We at WBS, in conjunction with Christie Barnhart of Missouri American Water, decided that all of the displaced elementary schools' children deserved to see a live Bald Eagle up close in their schools.  So we brought Liberty to each of the schools we visited.  We also brought a few other birds to share.  Newspaper reporters and TV reporters showed up at some of the schools to feature the birds and the school kids.

At night while we watched the news in Joplin, there were still stories every day about the tornado damage and recovery efforts.  Five families were still living in the Drury Inn. The families checked in on the night of the tornado or shortly thereafter. 

Many workers involved in the recovery and rebuilding effort were booking rooms at the Drury for two weeks at a time. There were bulldozer people, AT&T workers from Texas, Insurance Agents all still very active in rebuilding Joplin.

We brought an Eagle and other birds to the schools to help the kids have fun, learn, and take their minds off of some of their problems with the hope that we were helping rebuild peoples' spirits.

Submitted by Mike Zieloski, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

No comments: