American Red Cross staff recounts what it was like 10 years ago in Joplin

Joplin Tornado

JOPLIN, Mo. — A decade ago, staff and volunteers with the American Red Cross were on the ground for months. For many, it was a career-changing experience.

“So, many people that sacrificed so much to come out and help Joplin,” said David Sewell.

That day in Joplin transformed many lives, including those providing help for those impacted by the storm.

“It was long long days,” said Sewell. ” It was sleeping in a shelter because we knew our clients were in hotels. thas the way it should be.”

Sewell and other American Red Cross workers were some of the first on the ground after an EF-5 tornado came through Joplin.

“Even though it was so bad and they were devastated from this tornado, it also allowed me to totally give of myself to the Red Cross and to the people of Joplin,” said Sewell.

What the workers saw and felt that day never truly left them.

“I remember seeing the sky and it was just dark clouds and different than I had ever seen it,” said Nigel Holderby who was with the American Red Cross. “And, there were two double rainbows that evening and it was there in mind that was the start of this transition for me personally.
That was the moment in time when I sat in that headquarters office, and I said I want to do this forever. I want to help people. I want to be with Red Cross.”

It was a time of learning for the Red Cross, and lessons that were learned that day shaped how the agency operated going forward.

“The time to make those relationships is now,” said Holderby. “Before something happens in your community.”

Workers also need to learn to deal with the trauma.

Trauma is something that we walk into,” said Holderby. “We take on that pain of that community. And, those people who are hurting become those people that are carrying that load of them so many times.”

However, the biggest takeaway is finding out just how resilient the people of the Ozarks can be.

“That’s what affected me most is the spirit of the people to help themselves and help their community,” said Sewell.

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