“It’s a testimony to the human spirit.” Those words from emergency room doctor Jim Roscoe referred to injured staff members at St. John’s Regional Medical Center tending to others after a massive tornado devastated Joplin, Mo., but it could have described scenes throughout the city of 50,000.
Amid rubble that looked more like the results of war than nature, people searched for loved ones, friends and neighbors. Emergency personnel risked their lives as more bands of thunderstorm flashed lightning around them as they searched frantically for survivors.
There were stories of success, of people pulled alive from the debris, but, by late Tuesday, the death toll had reached at least 116 and was expected to continue to climb, making this the deadliest single tornado since 1953.
Just last month, an outbreak of several tornadoes in the South claimed the lives of more than 300 people in a single day.
It is sobering to think how many more people could have died if not for the warnings that today’s technology allows to be given much earlier, providing time to take cover. But, in storms as powerful as these recent tornadoes, even that extra time is not enough.
So, with a risk of severe storms in the forecast today for Central and southeastern Illinois — and tornado season far from over in this area — it’s worth reminding people to have a weather radio readily available as well as a flashlight with fresh batteries. It couldn’t hurt to put together a disaster kit that includes a three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day), nonperishable food and a first aid kit.
Meanwhile, remember those in need of help. Contribute to organizations such as the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army. Consider becoming a trained emergency volunteer — or, at least, keep your first-aid and CPR training up to date. Be prepared; tragedy certainly could strike here as well.