In five days, three of our attorneys will be flying out from Raleigh, North Carolina to Joplin, Missouri to help assist in the recovery of the city from the devastating tornado that ripped through on May 22, 2011. The idea was born because I had actually become quite moved by the story of a young Will Norton. Will had just left his high school graduation when he was driving home with his father when the tornado struck. While his father desperately tried to hold onto his son, the tornado snapped Will’s seatbelt and pulled him from the vehicle. This story haunted me for the longest time. I followed a Facebook page that was set up about Will’s family and their search for their missing son. Will’s body was found some days later in a nearby pond by rescue divers. But despite the family’s heartbreak and sadness, they continued to post messages of inspiration and faith. I found myself constantly obsessed with Will and his family, wondering how does one survive such a horrific tragedy. I then started thinking, this is but one story of many. Looking at the daily struggles of the people of Joplin, I decided that I needed to travel there and lend a hand in whatever way I could. I was mentioning this to the attorneys here at the office and next thing I know, they all are wanting to come along to help. And so it has begun… a journey we will be taking to Joplin, Missouri. I will be traveling with Patrice Ray and Michael Rothrock. Unfortunately, Jennifer Seate, who desperately wanted to come, was prevented by the fact her husband is out of town and she has to care for her children (and keep the firm running while we are away).
We will be flying out on Friday, June 10th and returning Monday, June 13th. We have already signed up through the United Way who is coordinating massive volunteer efforts in Joplin. Our trip has not been without some hurdles already. We found first, that it was impossible to find a hotel in Joplin or anywhere close by. The closest major airport is the one in Tulsa and that is still about 2 hours away from Joplin. I will have to credit a wonderful rep at Hotels.Com who after explaining I needed to get as close to Joplin coming from Tulsa as possible, he easily was able to backtrack from Joplin and find us quarters about 50 miles away. It’s not going to be a picnic. We are prepared to work sun up to sun down clearing debris and we have to provide our own food and water because let’s face it, many of the food stores are gone too. We will get it figured out but a few days of “roughing it” is nothing compared to what these folks have been going through. We will continue to try to blog about our experiences once we get there. Until then, asking everyone to keep the people of Joplin in your hearts and prayers.