When you think of heroes most of us conjure up ideas of comic book characters, Superman, Spiderman, Thor and maybe even The Green Lantern. But when tragedy hits, the people that come to help you out, those are the people that you consider heroic.
Most of the time, the people that help out in tragedies are loved ones or close friends, but sometimes not such close friends, just people with that extra dose of compassion, who wouldn’t think of being anywhere else or doing anything other than help.
When the Missouri town of Joplin was hit by a category EF-5 tornado on May 22 of this year, people all around the country saw the news and had compassion for the people enduring loss of life or home. Some of those people gathered goods to send to the people of Joplin and some of them took the goods and the trip to personally deliver the message of hope, love and compassion to the people.
On June 3 a group of 32 people from Tyler and the surrounding communities headed out to provide the people of Joplin some help, some relief, some compassion. Among that group were people of all types and of all backgrounds who shared in the fact that they were moved to action.
Cortney Thomas – mother of three, part-time hero!
Cortney Thomas of Martin’s Mill saw the news of the tornado in Joplin like most of America, and immediately her heart reached out for the people of Joplin. Thomas, like anyone who saw the damage felt terrible, but this was different, she wanted to do something to help these people.“I wanted to come do something, but didn’t know what, I just wanted to go help,” said Thomas about the initial feelings she shared with many of the crew that went to Joplin.
With children ages two, four and almost six, it’s not easy to just pick up and leave the state no matter how good the cause. Thomas is a stay-at-home mom, so her work never ends, constantly picking up after, cleaning and cooking.
However, Thomas talked it over with her husband got his blessing of sorts and contacted the group about going.
Once in Joplin, Thomas found herself at a loss for words when trying to describe the scene to her husband, “It’s just beyond words. There’s no way to make my husband, or anyone, understand what I’m seeing,” said Thomas.
From raising her children with love and compassion, Thomas found a way to use her gifts in Joplin, to help share love and compassion. She also came away with a new perspective, “being here helped me realize how things (houses, furnishings, etc) can be gone in minutes.”
Now back at home, Cortney Thomas, an everyday hero will go back to taking care of her three children, until someone else really needs her again and you can bet she will answer that call.
Amy Creed, Kelsey Tinnen, Jackie and Catherine Rodgers – Moms, daughters and heroes!
Thursday was the last day of school for many in Tyler, Texas. For Kelsey Tinnen and Catherine Rodgers, it was the day they planned to go help out tornado victims in Joplin, Missouri.
Tinnen and Rodgers’ mothers, Amy Creed and Jackie Rodgers saw the damage and destruction in Joplin, they even made an agreement among themselves to go up and try to help the week prior to school being out, but ended up not being able to make it happen. When they came across Travis White’s facebook message about going to Joplin, they were both as excited as most would be about a surprise shopping trip.
“You’re not going to believe it,” were Creed’s words to Jackie Rodgers when she found out about the group planning the relief trip, “you’re going to be so excited.” From there, they offered the opportunity to their daughters to accompany them on the trip and the daughters were all in.
Once in Joplin, the foursome experienced what most cannot describe, “devastation so vast,” said Rodgers, “I’m just in disbelief, today is the first time it really hit me that this is real.” Creed added, “It’s just overwhelming, you have to be here and see it to understand.”
The women shared this experience with their 13 and 14-year old daughters, who gave up their precious first summer vacation weekend to go work in the heat and destruction that is Joplin.
On the first day of work Kelsey and Catherine helped clean up logs. As the chain saw operators would cut the tree limbs, the two teenagers would drag the logs out so other members could take the limbs to the piles. It was hot, dirty, sweaty work but the girls stood in there and carried their weight and much more.
On day two the mothers and daughters were able to work together, as they were recruited to help out serving food to volunteers and victims at a local church. The foursome prepared hamburgers and hotdogs as well as packaging up chips and cookies. After lunch, they were able to go out and see a basement in one house where a family had sought shelter from the tornado and the conditions that likely saved their lives.
“Our girls got to see what a community does to help each other,” explained Creed, “people unite and they help each other.” “This is their first day of summer vacation,” said Rodgers, “and they chose to come here and help other people, without complaining.”
Sam Moser & Megan Madson – Nebraska has heroes too!
The four vehicles that left Tyler Thursday evening headed to Joplin, Missouri carried tons of supplies, tools and 32 East Texans who shared the goal of helping the people recover from the devastating tornado. The “Tyler Team”, however, was made up of 34 members, the final two came from Nebraska to join the team.
Megan Madson, a college student in Nebraska, went online the day after the tornado hit Joplin, Missouri looking for a group to join to offer help there. She found the group from Tyler, started by Cori Moore.
“She said exactly what they were doing,” said Madson, “and pointed me towards the website.” From there, Madson convinced her boyfriend, Sam Moser, that they should drive six hours to help.“This was totally Megan,” said Moser, “she came to me and she was like, ‘hey, I’m really feeling this,’ and I’m so thankful to her that she brought me along to do this. I didn’t know what to expect but the people that we met and hearing their stories, that was amazing. Just so glad to help and see how grateful they are.”
Moser proved especially valuable cleaning up debris once the team uncovered a snow shovel at one house, “we do this all the time in Nebraska,” said Moser as he took over the shovel and loaded debris into wheelbarrows to be carted away.
The couple were touched by the experience and by the people they helped, “Wayne, the older guy we helped,” says Moser, “he was great, so upbeat. But when he broke down into tears, it just got to me. Here’s a guy who was strong and probably seen a lot in his life, but knowing we were there to help him touched him and that in turn touched me.”
The couple came as two individuals, but once in Joplin were accepted not only by the group from Tyler, but by the Joplinites as well. “It was just great how this incident brought us all together as one,” said Madson, “the experience is amazing and I wouldn’t trade it.”
So, the heroes wrapped up their weekend of helping others and drove the six hours back to Nebraska, changed forever by the gratefulness they received for their unselfish deed.
Heroes in Joplin – A man with no home and a boy named “Ask”.
There were at least a couple of heroes that did not go on the trip from Tyler, but proved heroic none the less. While in Joplin, the team from Tyler was somewhat dependant on locals for guidance, shelter and even food.
Carl Junction is a suburb of Joplin, and the Carl Junction Christian Church is where the team stayed both nights of the trip. The ladies slept upstairs from the gym, while the men slept downstairs in the gym which also served as a cafeteria of sorts.
Members of the church offered up their services including fixing breakfast and desserts for the team as well as providing same-day laundry service for anyone who needed it.
At another church, the team received their advice on where to go and who to help. This church had been terribly damaged, with members inside, that Sunday evening. The members had transformed their parking lot into a supply circus, with a giant tent up and all kinds of supplies underneath the tent for disbursement to people who will need them. This church also provided the lunchtime meal, with members manning the grill all morning to prepare hot hamburgers and hotdogs as well as a cooler of ice cream which came in very handy in the warm conditions.
On day two, members of the Team Tyler helped out this crew to prepare the lunches. In doing so, they realized that the man cooking was not just a volunteer, he was a victim who had lost his home in the storm, yet there he was helping the volunteers.At the same location, many of the team members were greeted by a 12-year old kid, that called himself Ask. Turns out, his initials spelled the work Ask, but it also fit to describe his purpose. If any of the volunteers needed anything, this kid, had the answer or knew where to get whatever it was they needed. More than one of the volunteers mentioned, “if you didn’t know any better, you’d think that kid was running this operation.” As it turns out, Ask was also a victim of the storm who had lost his home, but instead of choosing to be a victim, chose to be a helper. You just had to ask!
Tragedies anywhere can bring out the best in people, or show you what people are really made of. There are a lot of people who went on the trip to Joplin, Missouri who would describe it as just “doing their part” or “helping a neighbor” who are really heroes. They are people you are glad you live next to, glad you work with or glad you go to church with even. They are people who you know will help you when you most need it and in today’s messed up world, that is pretty heroic.