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Posted Monday, July 11, 2011, at 10:23 AM

Many of the representatives who have spent time in Joplin say that the pictures on television didn't accurately reflect the devastation that the tornado wreaked on the city. Now, after spending time there, I can vouch that they were telling the truth. Last week, I, along with some of my fellow legislators from around the state, volunteered their time and labor to help in the Joplin recovery effort.

On Tuesday, many of us from the Capitol Commission led by Paul Meinsen headed for Joplin. This is an area of the state I had never visited. We all recall the forever changing tornado that hit the city on May 22nd. This event not only changed Joplin, but is also having a lasting effect on the rest of the country.

As I was driving to Joplin on Tuesday, I continually remembered the pictures displayed and words spoken from others who had visited the area earlier. And I could only imagine what was in store.

As I approached the city limits, I saw a sign identifying the exit disaster workers should take. I still didn't see any signs of damage. Traffic was moving, businesses were open with their parking lots full of customers and the restaurants were packed with people eating their evening meals.

I couldn't anticipate what I was about to see. After getting directions from Paul, I met him at a restaurant that had incurred damage. It wasn't until the next morning, when a local representative took us on a tour, that I began to understand what had really happened.

On Wednesday, our group met at Sam's Club, where our tour was set to begin. On the tour, we saw what had happened along with the ongoing cleanup efforts from the storm that had hit just seven weeks earlier.

We were told that the devastation was miles wide and 6 miles long in the center of Joplin with another 6 miles of damage in the rural area just outside of the city. It was identified that the tornado was traveling at 32 miles per hour with a tornado contained inside another tornado. Wind speeds within the twister topped out at 200 miles per hour.

Around 8,000 homes were destroyed that fateful night. Numerous businesses were destroyed as beams of steel were twisted or broken like toothpicks. A high school and a one-year-old grade school were also in the path. A hospital and a nursing home, where numerous fatalities occurred, were also destroyed. The effort to restore Joplin will be ongoing for some time, and the total cost is still undetermined.

As Paul Harvey would say: "And now, the rest of the story." People from across the United States know about the disaster and feel the pain of the community. Disaster relief, church groups and caring individuals turned out immediately to offer their help, whatever the job was.

The fact that these groups traveled hundreds or thousands of miles is very humbling. Going to a place you've never been and working to help people you've never met is what makes this country the greatest country in the world.

The work will continue for many more months to come. The resources that have been accumulated by groups or individuals continue to flood into an area where folks, besides losing family or friends, have lost all material possessions and employment.

Continue to remember and support our neighbors in Joplin. Your thoughts, prayers and resources will help reestablish this area in need. If possible, be part of a volunteer group. Churches in the area along with disaster relief warehouses will appreciate you and will be more than happy to put you to work.

We're placed on this earth to serve, not be served. When you help others, you always receive more than you can ever give.

As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Missouri House. If you would like to discuss any issue, please call 573-751-3629. You can also email me at Kent.Hampton@house.mo.gov. I look forward to hearing from you.

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163rd Capitol Report
Rep. Kent Hampton - 163rd District
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