Check out my very first guest post about the big tornado down in Joplin over at Shoes Never Worn. Big thanks to K. Syrah for featuring me!
K. Syrah writes one of the few blogs I actually read on (nearly) a daily basis. Check out her work after you read mine! I regularly read her novel, Carry Me Home, which is being published chapter-by-chapter, in a serial format on Eat Your Serial. It’s an excellent read, and I’ve already pre-ordered my copy!
Apparently Shoes Never Worn is no longer (sob!)…so I’ve been so kind as to provide a copy of my post right here on the Dr. Pretzel blog! You’re welcome.
Yesterday evening, a massive tornado ripped through Joplin, Missouri. It left behind a swath of damage 3/4 of a mile wide and nearly six miles long. So far, the death toll is about 89. That’s the latest news as of 5 a.m. Monday morning. I expect that the numbers will change over the next several days. They always do.
Immediately following any disaster in the USA, hundreds of thousands of individuals and organizations start posting comments on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. They post at the bottom of every news article about the disaster. Each update in the news brings another post from many of the same people who had posted previously. They get a bit repetitive.
I was watching the Weather Channel last night when the news broke that a tornado had just hit Joplin. A Weather Channel storm chaser was just minutes behind the storm and had come upon the devastation immediately after. He was emotionally overcome several times by what he saw. In every direction, homes, businesses, trees, vehicles, they were all destroyed as far as the eye could see.
I immediately hopped online to look for more news about the tornado, which was still moving east. Over the next few minutes, internet news outlets began releasing the story.
That’s when the comments began.
For every 20 posts of “We’re praying for you” and for every 30 Tweets of “OMG! That’s SOOOO awful what happened in #Joplin! Jesus help them!” there was just one or two “I’m looking for so-and-so who might have been in the tornado.” or “Please help me, I need insulin and I’m at this location in #Joplin.” Those “help me!” posts are the ones which needed the most visibility, yet people won’t shut up with their “prayers” so that the calls for help can be seen.
This morning I opened up my Facebook to see that the Missouri Army National Guard had posted a link to a page for Joplin, MO Tornado Information. I clicked and “liked” it, only to read post after post of “we’re praying for you” with the occasional “I’m looking for” buried beneath the offers for donations and help. Offers for help run the gamut, from baby clothes to childcare assistance to money.
These are long posts, often with links, which overshadow the simple requests for help with contacting a potential victim. On sites which were created to help with contacting or locating victims.
Now, I’m all for helping people in need, and good thoughts and intentions are very nice, but the people in NEED are TRYING TO TALK TO ONE ANOTHER! STFU!
I’m in the military. The Army National Guard, specifically. We’re trained to think a little bit differently than the average person when it comes to emergencies. We don’t think so much about how to leave the area or how to bunker down, but how to get to that area and how to help clean it up.
We also know that sometimes the best help you can provide is to stay out of the way and pay attention. We pay attention to what the state emergency response agencies tell citizens to do. If they say “we have 60 agencies here right now and we really need you to stay out of the way,” we stay the hell out of the way. If our units need us to help, they’ll call. We’re ready to go. Our willingness is exhibited by the uniform hanging in our closets. We don’t need to post our “prayers” or get in the way to show that.
Right now, the 35th Engineer Brigade is down in Joplin aiding in the search and rescue operation. I’m not in the 35th, and though I wish I could help, I’m only going to be in the way if I get in my car and go down there right now.
Just like those good-intentioned folks on Twitter and Facebook pages meant to assist families and victims in contacting one another who are just mucking up the works and making it harder. If this is you, STOP. You’re in the way.
If you’re going to pray for someone, do it on your own, in your living room. Your god might hear you there, but it’s more than likely that your god doesn’t appreciate you getting in the way of a rescue effort. Don’t muck up the sites which were created to help victims and their families find one another.
To my fellow Soldiers who are down in Joplin: This is what we train for (among other things). “Always Ready, Always There.” Be safe while leading those in need to safety.
To the families and loved ones of possible victims: Your best bet for finding a missing loved one is to go to the Red Cross’ Safe and Well site to search for them. If you don’t find them there, do not give up hope. Try again in a few hours. The Red Cross, Missouri National Guard, Missouri State Emergency Management Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency and many other emergency response organizations are working tirelessly to help the people of Joplin.