I had never seen a more horrific display of destruction. It was one mile wide and six miles long. Standing in the midst of a barren flatland, I turned 360 degrees and I saw, but more importantly, I felt the devastation!
I stood in the streets of Joplin, Missouri – the town which suffered an EF-5 tornado at 5:41 PM, Sunday, May 22, 2011. In less than 30 minutes, a tornado took the lives of 160 people and destroyed many more.
The residents had no time to prepare. I couldn’t begin to imagine their feelings of: Panic. Terror. Calm. Shock. Hopelessness.
Let that sink in for a moment.
In October 2011, I volunteered for 12 days to help the city’s residents heal and to support their mission: “Remember. Rebuild. Rejoice!” I participated as a volunteer for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’s final episode where they built 7 homes in 7 days.
In the Spring/Summer of 2014, I stood in my own path of devastation and destruction after suffering a heart attack and stroke.
I had no time to prepare. I felt every ounce of : Panic. Terror. Calm. Shock. Hopelessness.
I mean it when I say, “Not a day goes by when I don’t think about that dark period of my life.” I remember it well. Too well, in fact.
However, for years, Cathy and I have been rebuilding our lives. Not in a dramatic fashion. No cameras. No celebrities. No “Move That Bus” moments or dramatic reveals.
Ray, Gary, Bruce, Kellie, Marc, Thom, Siobhan, Keith, Matthew, and too many others. Their time here on Earth was too short.
They left their families with no time to prepare. I’m sure they have felt: Panic. Terror. Calm. Shock. Hopelessness.
All of our families continue to remember our lost loved ones. We try to rebuild. Every day. Our work will never be done.
We are never promised tomorrow.
So, when do we get to rejoice? Every day.
Every day that we wake up is a reason to rejoice. Every ability we have is a gift. Every breath we take is a cause for celebration.
We have the opportunity to let our memories guide our future. We should not let our unfortunate past keep us in dark places.
We should take advantage of every opportunity to move our lives forward.
Is it scary? You bet. But in rebuilding we can become stronger and healthier than we were before.
Go. Celebrate the memory of someone you love. Be extreme and take advantage of opportunities that are given to you.
Be Kind. Be Thankful. Be Significant.