Monday, May 30, 2011

Day Six

This morning I was able to blow dry my hair, wear sweats and a t-shirt.  This is so nice!!!  We were notified first thing this morning that our insurance company is going to provide us with one year of rent up front.  We do not have to go through our insurance agency in order to get into a house and it does not have to be one of the homes they find for us.  Houses are going so quickly in Joplin that it is very difficult to get into a house, apartment, or shack out back with utilities.  What a blessing.  A high school friend contacted me who is a pilot with Delta Airlines.  He is sending me some buddy passes for people to fly in and out of the area.  We have no immediate need, but this is something that could come in handy in the future.  There are so many needs that we are unaware of that it is just nice to be prepared for things like this.  We have not gotten a flat tire.  We are so blessed to have a car that survived, that I am hoping with all the nails around that we will be able to get out of this mess without having to replace a tire.

I got up and ate one of the best breakfast sandwiches of my life.  When I awoke this morning I was craving a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich.  My hosts had one and it was so good.  Talk about God providing for all my needs when I would have just eaten cold cereal or a cup of coffee.  I was able to watch old “Bugs Bunny” and “Tom and Jerry” cartoons on Cartoon Network today.  It was nice to laugh at nothing as I lay under my newly laundered only slightly stained memory quilt.  I mean now it just has more character.

Josh was in contact with Accenture’s Human Resource Representative who has applied us for the Accenture Charitable Trust Grant for $2500.  We were approved.  She is also trying to get Josh enough PTO for all of June so that he can continue to take care of our little family.  Again the generosity of the people we know has brought us to tears. 

Some of today was very hard.  I do not want to dwell on that.

One amazing thing that happened today was that we got some more of my family heirlooms out of the house.  We went back for a badly mangled table that I was super fixated on.  I know this is stress and loss.  When we got there I was not in appropriate foot attire and as I got out of the car, I stepped on a nail.  It did not penetrate the skin, but I will probably never wear flip flops again.  (This is a rather jaw dropping statement.)  And yes I did get a tetanus shot after we left as a preemptive measure.  As I was sitting in our car, Josh went and got the table.  I decided I would open the door and see who was around and saw that there was a fire department truck from Weber, Missouri.  I stopped them as we needed to get the license plates off our vehicle for insurance purposes and while there they offered to get anything out of the house we needed.  I asked Josh if there was any way our drop leaf table could have survived and he humored me and looked.  It was under our living room wall being stepped on, rained on, and tornado-ed.  Josh and three firemen moved the wall and pulled out my almost intact drop leaf table.  It was amazing.  I realized that this was all I cared about for the most part.  I do not think I will be going back for a while.  It is a strange feeling.

We also met a photographer from the New York Times who was photographing our area.  The New York Times is trying to reproduce the shots taken by Google Earth of many streets in Joplin.  This will give a better before and after shot of our street.  He was saying many interesting things and was going to take some photographs for us and email us copies.  Josh had a great idea to frame some of these images to remind us later that we need to be mindful of how stuff is only temporary.  I have a wonderful husband.

Just to mention, Josh and I were married four years ago today.  May 27, 2007 was our happy day and we are both truly thankful for both being here to share another year together.  We have had a really excellent year despite the tornado.  Over the past 17 months we have gone to 23 states including Hawaii in December 2009.  We have seen many baseball parks and experienced quite a few wonderful things.  I have been blessed more than I could have asked or imagined.  He is a wonderful perfect match for me and I cringe at what the alternative could have been just days ago. 

We received word that Josh’s office has given us money that was a significant amount considering we are in Joplin.  We have received almost $5,000 in donations alone.  This does not include other in kind donations of respite, food, clothing, and airline tickets.  We are truly blessed. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Day too many- Five

The blessings for today were that our house was a total loss.  We were able to get a couple of last minute things from the house including my family’s civil war era muskets.  We have wonderful people from all over the world loving us with prayer and support.  We are receiving money from people we know and love dearly to people that we have never met.  I am truly humbled.  I have been in contact with people I have not talked to in years.  It is encouraging to see how much I am loved.  We are being prayed for on all sides! Praise God! 

Let me start with the business of the day and then I will follow with the good stuff.  Today we met with our insurance agent.  He said hands down that it was a total loss, no questions.  He spoke with us about the information he would need and what we would need to do to claim the rest of our insurance money.  This is something that makes my stomach churn.  I hate this part.  If they would have just told me how much we were getting and walked away, I would have been happy.  Instead we have to justify the full amount of our personal property and he thinks we will have no problems with getting it and we may be under insured for some of it.  This is why I hate this type of stuff.  God gave me a wonderful and brilliant husband that is blessed with a business mind.  He is mostly un-phased by this part of the process.  It was cold and windy all day today and this made the entire meeting difficult as it was at our house so that he could go over anything at the physical location.

After this we went to Josh’s work so that he could check some emails, get a rental list from our insurance company as they want to get us in a house, and check in with his coworkers and boss.  I was able to use the bathroom and get some coffee since it was cold outside and I was in shorts.  I have pants; they were just in the tornado salvaged items that were being washed.  We found out we had more things at another person’s home as they were not able to reach the house we are staying at.  More stuff…one item is my memory quilt.  You know the tornado is going on there once I clean it.  While there, Josh’s boss pulled us aside and said that the office, as well as other people in the company of Accenture, had given money and wanted to give it to us as well as a large trailer full of stuff for us to have once it gets here from I think Florida.  I cried, what else is there to do?  I mean we just left the insurance agent and here we have more people who are living in the community giving us money.  Thirty percent of Joplin is gone and we were chosen.  Talk about the lottery; we won the friends lottery!

We went back to the house and Josh got a call from his mother who told him that the Librarians at the Tulsa Public Schools in Oklahoma had taken up a collection for us.  More money which makes me feel over whelmed!  My grandmother contacted me to let me know that our family beach house is available in June to have for a while to relax and get away.  My mom also wanted me to come down to the Dallas/ Ft Worth Metroplex to get away from things and go shopping since I will soon need some clothing and other items.  I am not good at accepting help.  I have never been.  I am the "helper/ fixer".  I want to help as much as I can.  But right now, I am not able to help.  I am not able to go out and serve others since I was forced to restart my life.  This is a way for God to stretch me and be more open to others help. 

People in Joplin are depressed.  They need some sort of distraction.   What do Americans do when they need distractions? They watch television.  Television is not a practical option due to downed lines and many lost there televisions in the storm.  Plus, most anything on television is about the storm so why watch it?  Kids need to be distracted right now.  They need a diversion.  As I mentioned before, Josh is an avid board gamer!  He has been in contact, through his blog and Twitter, with game companies that are right now shipping board games to our church.  These board games will be well used and a better alternative to watching television. 

I was truly honored today by a former student that I had.  I was a student advisor for freshman at Abilene Christian University one year and provided counseling to the students I worked with.  One of these students contacted me today and it humbled me to tears.  She wrote, “I am so humbled by your strength, bravery, and courageousness…I pray that you continue to inspire people with bravery and blessings through your blog…”  I am truly touched.  I do not feel strong.  I feel "lost" which is not the right word but I do not know what else to say.  I did not start this blog for recognition, but wanted it to be a way for people to see hope in this awful time.  Why else would any crazy person title their blog about a tornado experiences with “blessing”.  This is not the only person that has contacted me.  I want to say a huge yet not quite large enough “Thank you” to all that have contacted me from Facebook, phone, text, email, and here on my blog.  I am so appreciative of everyone from the person who hands out water and food on the street when I am hungry to the person who gives us money to the person who is praying for us throughout this entire ordeal.  Everyone one of you is important to my mental health and stability right now and I would be a puddle on the ground without you. 

Truly Thank You!!!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day Four

Our blessings for the day include that we have water and food and the financial resources to be able to provide for ourselves.  We have a faith that is helping us know that we are loved by a merciful God.  This sounds ironic, but if we had been in town my husband may have perished.  He always hated going down to the basement in hazardous storms and we would argue every time.  I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas and experienced the devastation of the downtown tornadoes when I was in high school.  I will never not go into a basement and I will always heed this warning.  My husband had not experienced this first hand.  He has since acknowledged to me that this will not be the case any longer. 

I had to count to figure out how many days it has been with this post.  It's crazy.  Today they announced on the news that the tornado that went through Joplin and my house was an EF 5 tornado.  It was a hard day.  We got up and went out to our belongings in the barn.  We started the process of separating out what was going to survive now that it was out of the rain for one day and what was not going to survive.  I did not know that there are some things that you should not keep after a tornado due to the plastics becoming toxic.  I would never wish this experience on anyone and I am some what happy to bare this experience since I was not at home.

We were encouraged to start a list of items for our insurance claim.  That is strange.  Sectioning out our house to account for everything we own.  Really, how do you do that?  It is wonderful that my husband is so methodical.  He just works wonders.  We had another friend come and bring boxes; there are none in Joplin or the surrounding cities.  There are also no Rubbermaid tubs or similar anywhere.  Much of what was in the basement was in tubs already, but what was not needed to be transferred into something that had not weathered the storm.  We worked on this with a friend for the day.  It was nice to have someone to just be there as you went through what was left.  She came and helped us work through the stuff piece by piece.  She brought towels and paper towels and boxes of all sizes.  We worked for several hours. 

Both my boss called and Josh's boss called about our status.  My boss told me that she did not expect me to come back.  I currently work for a company in a contracted position outside of town where I was going to have to drive a little over an hour to and from work.  Due to being displaced, I am not sure if this situation is an option aside from the emotional aspect of my practice.  (A social work ethical tenet is that we should be emotionally healthy while practicing and if we are not, we should seek assistance with coping with our needs.)  Josh's boss just wanted to check in.  My boss lives in Springfield, which is were our office is, but was in Joplin on Sunday for a family get together.  She has family ties to the area.  She and her husband’s family , as well as their seven month old infant, were all safe and her car even survived the storm as it was in a garage.  I am so thankful she and her family were alright.

My sister called and we talked for a good long while.  Today was the first day that I was able to take phone calls and actually answer questions.  It was nice.  Everyday since the event, I was answering phone calls and was only able to talk for five to ten minutes before I had to hang up.  It has just been too busy.  We went back into the non-destruction zone and met with some of our friends.  I remember thinking that it was strange to be just sitting in a shop with no where to go.  Under normal circumstances we would just head home afterwards since most of these stores were just a couple miles or so from our house.  Afterwards, we left and went to one of the few stores left in the area and got some supplies to continue packing up our belongings.  While shopping, I saw one of my old clients.  (I am a social worker, so due to confidentiality, I am not supposed to approach clients unless they acknowledge me in public.  I have explained this to all my clients.)  This caused me to unexpectedly break down crying in the middle of Wal-Mart.  There was no reason other than the fact that he was one of my favorites and I was so happy to see him across the store.  He did not see me thankfully as I was not emotionally ready to speak to him.  This experience showed me that I am not ready to return to work.  Thankfully I realized this before June 2nd when I was scheduled to return to work.  I am now happily unemployed.  We went through Joplin a totally different route.  We did not even go south to leave, we just went due west.  We always go south; so much so that my husband keeps asking me which roads connect to the highways.

During this time, I heard too many stories of people who were still missing or who narrowly were alive.  We were notified by a friend that they found one of our neighbors and her son in the rubble of a house just two doors down dead.  Even writing that now, makes me cry.  The feeling is just crushing.  We were there just yesterday and she was there also.  I almost fee a sense of responsibility...I know I shouldn't but I do.

We went back to the house and one of the women that is living at the house long term is a dispatcher for the local university in town.  They are one of the many shelters for the area and are also a make shift morgue for the time.  There are lots of dead there that are unidentified and not counted in the now 122 death count.  Again, I am so grateful to be alive!!!

We planned with some friends to hang out that evening and play games.  We needed to relax and have some fun.  I ate my first full meal that night and it was wonderful.  While writing this, I realize that this statement will not be true the following day.  We meet with our insurance agent tomorrow and that is very nerve racking. 

I wrote this blog and other tonight and it was very humbling to process through this information.  It is now in the morning and I am not going to sleep much tonight.  Josh and I do not sleep much and I realize, as I hear him snore, how I miss repositioning him after he falls asleep and when I come to bed.  I am very grateful for our bed and accommodations, but I am still allowed to miss this daily ritual.

Day Three

Blessings for the day: We have a roof over our heads and wonderful friends and family.  I cannot say this enough.  I have been overwhelmed by the amount of people that have just showed up.  I posted as I was coming into town that I was going to the house and that anyone who wanted to come was welcome.  We had five people show up and four more called and wanted to come help.  We were leaving and I told them to meet us at the house we are staying at to help unload and it was wonderful.  There were so many people just driving cars around stopping, honking, and saying "take anything you want out of the back".  They had water and food and tools and just anything.  There was water sitting on a random street corner in my neighborhood.  People walked up to us to offer to help.  We did not know them.  There are just not enough words.  We did not have another Tornado that evening.  No one was injured while working at our house.  We salvaged many priceless things from our house including our wedding scrapbook. 

This first night back we slept alright, but we were both anxious about the coming day.  I realized this morning that I had not eaten enough food in the past two days.  It was such a long two days that I had forgotten how much time had passed since the tornado.  We got up and checked email, fielded phone calls, text messages, and responded to Facebook posts and questions.  I ate some breakfast but every time I tried to eat I wanted to throw up.  Josh received a phone call from his office asking if we wanted help as they had trucks, men, and tools that may be needed to dig out anything.  In my perfect Social Work-ee way and half asleep, I wanted to make sure that they knew it was bad and to make sure that they had boots and gloves to protect themselves.  Looking back I realize they knew this more than I did.  The anxiety at this point was almost overwhelming.  I knew that it was going to be a bad day so I requested prayer on Facebook.  Prayer is something that I had not stopped doing since Sunday night.  Every thought I had included a prayer asking for or thanking God for something.  The plan for the day included my mother-in-law driving me to XNA airport to get our only car and to see if our luggage arrived.  These two things were the only worldly possession we had at this time.  My husband planned on going directly to Joplin, Missouri from Tulsa, Oklahoma and start the salvage process.  My mother-in-law and I left and got to XNA around .  We stopped in Bentonville, Arkansas to get gloves, water, and snacks for us while we were in Joplin.  We knew that water was difficult to get due to a boil order.  I got our luggage, which was one of the happiest moments of the day.  I received a phone call from my sister-in-law while I was at the airport and she wanted to send us money.  My husband told me that he had opened his PayPal account to his board gamers and he said that people were sending money to us.  It is amazing to see how many people have just given us

I drove to Joplin for the first time since Saturday, May 21, 2011.  When I left XNA, I knew that I would need some moral support and called a friend to come and be with me as I went to where my house was.  As I drove into town, the debris was on both sides of the highway at mile marker 18 on Interstate 44 headed east.  Joplin is at mile marker 8.  The damage started at mile marker 13.  Once I got to Joplin, it was pretty unscathed.  When I got into town, I crested the hill at
32nd Street
and it was completely different than I left it.  It was damaged until
28th Street
and then there was nothing, only debris and tree limbs.  I started praying for God to just get me through that moment and reminding myself to breathe.  I met my friend and drove to within two blocks from my address.  We walked the next two blocks.  There were hundred year old trees that were pulled out of the ground at the roots.  The roots were taller than I am tall; I stand 5 feet 2 inches tall.  Everything is gone...EVERYTHING.  I walked holding hands with my friend, tears rolling down my checks in utter shock.  The devastation is immense.  There are not enough words to describe the decimation.  It is gone for more than three miles in a one mile strip wide.  What else is there to say?  Nothing.  Nothing at all. 

When I arrived at my house, my father-in-law had spray painted my address on one of the only flat pieces of wall on the front of my house.  There is the search "X" on my house.  There was so much debris that I could not traverse my yard.  It was completely covered.  I had to go into my neighbor’s yard to get to my house.  My husband saw me and said that I should go to what used to be our bedroom and look for clothes in our closet.  I was shocked at how much was in my closet.  I pulled out some things and started my share of salvage.  (I have back problems and I am not supposed to lift much of anything.)  I was initially somewhat disappointed at how much was actually gone, but after I spoke with my husband I found out that seven of his co-workers came and started to "loot" our house before he got there.  He said that they pulled out four truck loads of stuff from our house.  FOUR TRUCK LOADS out of that mess, you saw the picture.  Josh found several things that were important to him.  My great great grandmother's chest of drawers was still mostly intact in our house.  Many other family heirlooms were gone, but we were safe.  No one was hurt at our house the entire day.  Praise God!!!  (If they were though, there was a crisis center not far from our house that was treating the walking wounded and providing free tetanus shots.)  While we were cleaning up, the CBS national news came and interviewed my father-in-law and filmed us cleaning up.  Not even the newscaster was injured in her 2 inch platform strappy sandals.  We cleaned for a little while longer and had several friends come by to help.  Much of it had already been done.  I was able to talk to my neighbors that I knew and say that I was glad they were okay.  My husband saw another one and I talked to some people that had information about another one.  It was overall a much better day than I anticipated.  We were able to joke most of the day about the stuff because it is just stuff. 

Afterwards we went to another friend’s house who is letting us store our belongings and house us while we are in Joplin.  He is about 15 miles southeast of Joplin and has well water, electricity, and lots of things to keep our minds occupied.  We are sleeping in bunk beds and our host apologized, but we just laughed since its better than the floor, outside, our house, anywhere in Joplin, etc.  We have had several friends come and just hang out.  That evening, we came back from dinner and immediately were told that there was another tornado in the area and for everyone to take cover.  We went into his "storm shelter"/theater room and waited out the storm.  We are not the only people being housed by this family.  The wife's parents were also displaced and living at the house now.  They lived through the tornado with only bruising, and large gash on the wife's arm, and the husband broke his arm.  They were in their laundry room during the storm and after the roof was taken this couple was being sucked up into the storm.  They held onto some built in shelving as it crumbled under their grip.  The couple said it lasted for what seemed like five minutes.  They do not know how they survived.  I have heard many stories similar to this and just as chilling.

From my house we could see both St John's Mercy Hospital, which previously had been obstured by trees.  In the opposite direction, you could see the high school which was down the hill and there used to be houses and trees between us.  It is crazy to see these "landmarks" from my house.

To see a more indepth arial view of the area at New York Times website.

Day Two

The most prominent blessing from this event was that we were not there!!!  We had two bags full of clothes and toiletries.  We had our computer with all our banking and financial information on it and our camera.  We also had each other and wonderful friends and family.  Our hotel reduced our hotel fee by one night so we only paid one night of our scheduled eight night stay (we stayed two nights). 

I woke up after only four hours sleep.  My phone died late the night before because I overly used it and also thought that I needed to let it die for my own mental well being.  My father called me early and warned me that Joplin was the top news story of the day.  I turned on the television and watched while I got ready for the day.  Throughout the entire day I cried off and on.  It was one of those things that just happened for no real reason most of the time.  I was so stressed out that I could not remember anything.  My husband got up and we went to breakfast and then went to our room to pack up.  During this time frame, Josh received a call from his employer to account for his location.  My husband is an avid board game player,, and was contacted by several fellow gamers that wanted to help.  While we were getting ready, he received an email that basically said that the board game community was going to try to replace as much of his collection as they could.  He was so humbled by this.  The generosity shown made us speechless. 

When we went to airport we were confirmed on our first flight and the second flight we needed to be assigned seats.  While we waited for our flight, we received an email with two pictures of our house from my father-in-law.  We were sort of prepared for this as we had spoken with our friends and family who saw the house.  Sitting in the airport, it is hard to understand the devastation at our house.  I cried again.  It was good to have early expectations so that we did not experience total shock when we arrived.  We were constantly looking at pictures on Facebook and the television at our gate.  Lots of speculations were still being discussed on the national news and there was more detail. 

We flew to Atlanta with no problems and were scheduled to get on our next flight in a different terminal forty-five minutes after our scheduled landing.  We made it to the gate on time and they already boarded the first class cabin and other elite members.  The gate staff then stalled us at the gate for twenty minutes and subsequently canceled the flight due to weather.  During this time, we met and spoke with employees with Wal-Mart who were flying into Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Fayetteville, Arkansas where our flight originated.  They informed us that the store lost nine customers in the collapse.  The pictures they had were awful.  We were able to get on another flight to Tulsa which was again thirty minutes away in another terminal.  We made it and the gate attendant would not even acknowledge me at the gate.  I tried to be very polite and patient but wanted to make sure that I was heard before she allowed all the standby passengers on the flight.  She would not look up and kept repeating that she was closing the flight.  She closed the gate and referred us to customer service.  We have flown with Delta before and had experienced issues and knew to ask for a Red Jacket Supervisor.  We did this as something obviously went wrong.  He came to our gate and saw that somehow our seats were canceled on this flight and he rebooked us on the flight into our original airport later this evening.  We went and ate dinner and bought a phone charger since we lost ours at our house.  We answered phone calls and text messages of people to get updates.  Every where we went all day everyone was talking about the tornado; we could not get away from it and there were so many questions when someone found out we lived there. 

When our flight was delayed enough that we knew we were not going to make it back today, some of our friends were generous enough to go and get our computer out of our house.  Many of them were anxious for our arrival as they wanted to help us search the rubble.  We went to the next gate and waited for the flight.  It was again canceled and we went to customer service and had our flight rescheduled and we had to run to the next gate in another terminal again.  We made it and boarded the plane.  There was more bad weather in the area and our house contents were rained on almost continuously until this point.  Due to the weather, our pilot was redirecting our flight to avoid the severe weather.  We took off and halfway through the flight our pilot requested that the flight attendants take their seats.  Turbulence ensued.  It was nauseating.  After sometime passed the flight attendants prepared to land and took their seats.  The plane was fishtailing in the air...I did not know that airplanes could do that.  It was super scary, but I am sure not as scary as the tornado was.  We landed and left the airport without our luggage because it was scheduled to go to XNA.  We went and stayed with my in-laws and they provided us with clothes and a bed for the night.  We went to the store and purchased some necessities.  Josh responded to several emails and then we went to bed.  It was a somewhat more restful night than the night before. 

The blessings for the day were that we were alive.  We had a roof over our heads and bed to sleep on.  We heard from many of our friends and close neighbors that they were alright.  We had insurance.  We had a car.  Our house still had some structure left which meant that we could try to salvage some things.  We had the financial ability to pay for what we needed to continue.  We had running water and the resources to shower.  These were all important as much of Joplin this night and the previous night did not have power, water, or gas as these were all shut off when the tornado hit.  Gas was leaking in the city and it was very pungent.  Many of our friends were accounted for and knew of no fatalities at that time.  There were 116 dead at this point and over 1500 missing which was astounding and 17 people were found alive in the rubble.

These are pictures of roughly what our house looked like before:
The front of our house.

Our back patio.  The house is attached to the stairs on the left.
This is after the storm and was our first look at our house after the tornado:
I assume this needs no explanation.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day One

Let me start by introducing myself.  I am a twenty-six year old woman that previously resided in Joplin, Missouri.  As a result of the recent devastating tornadoes, I am now homeless.  This is a very difficult thing to admit.  In this first blog I will start by telling my story and then continue in the following days, potentially years, to chronicle the events that I deem blessing in my life.  These blessing will be a myriad of things which will be explained after the event occurs.

On May 21, 2011 I flew with my husband to Miami, Florida for a vacation that was to last for eight days.  I recently graduated from graduate school with a Masters Degree in Social Work from Missouri State University.  We were going to celebrate this accomplishment and our four year wedding anniversary.  On Sunday, May 22, we woke up and had a very eventful day.  We were staying at a hotel with a roof top terrace that overlooked a pool.  I went out that morning to sunbath and read.  My husband came to get me and inadvertently locked us out of the room for approximately 30 minutes.  We then got ready for the day as were planned on going to a Florida Marlins game.  We decided we would walk to the game as we thought it was just a little over a mile away.  This was incorrect.  We walked approximately one mile in the wrong direction and then had to turn back to get our car.  We drove and ended up late to the game.  The day continued somewhat uneventfully until around 7 eastern.  My husband received a text message from a friend who was watching our house while we were gone.  This text message stated that there had been a tornado in Joplin and they were leaving due to power outages.  My husband immediately called to find out more information.  We were told that they could not get to our house due to electrical lines and trees blocking roads all over town.  My husband then called a couple of other friends asking if they would be able to go and look at our house as we did not know the full extent of the devastation yet.  I went and got on my computer to look and see what was on facebook and other medias as well as googling "Joplin Tornado".  At that time there were very few stories and only one saying that there was a confirmed tornado that hit Home Depot and St John's Mercy Hospital.  I am aware that many of you do not know the geographical locations of these sites but I will tell you my house was directly in between these two sites that are approximately three miles apart.

At first my instinct was to assume that we were fine and that it had missed our house.  I read on a friend's Facebook page that there was news coverage on the National Weather Channel and I immediately turned on the hotel television on my beach vacation, not something I had planned on doing.  I saw St John's Mercy Hospital and did not recognize it.  I remember yelling at the television to tell me the location of where they were standing.  Almost immediately they pulled a local man aside and he stated that they were near 26th Street and Maiden Lane and they did a wide panning shot of the area.  It was terrifying!  I started crying.  What else is there to say?  This was 14 blocks from my house and I was 1500 miles away.  My husband and I talked and I told him we needed to call our home owners insurance to start a claim.  He said that we did not know anything and that it was too early.  I start texting and calling my neighbors and friends.  I get nothing when I call.  Over and over I hear busy signals, messages that my phone call cannot go through, and voicemails.  I start texting.  I get responses.  Josh got a text message around 8 from a friend that says, "I hate to tell you this as you should be having fun, but your house is gone."  Josh called the friend and they talked.  My husband politely got off the phone and said, "Thanks for checking and I really appreciate it."  I am standing in beautiful Miami with my hands above my head in total shock.  What do you do when you cannot do anything?  Nothing...I wanted to bury my head in the sand and say, "No!!!!"  Instead, my husband starts talking about going home.  I am thinking, "to what?"  There is nothing.  I begin texting a very good friend of mine to see if she is alright.  She reports that she is fine, her family was at her mother's home in the basement.  She had her daughter, step daughter, step son, and husband with her and they were all safe.  She said that the children's mother barely made it out alive, but that they were all safe.  I sent out text after text with no response.  They finally start to trickle in.  I called my mother for moral support.  She had nothing to say.  She started the family phone chain.  I had my husband call his family to tell them so that they would not hear it on the news.  I broke a cardnial rule at our house and posted on Facebook that we were not at home and were safe because it was the only way to make sure that people knew.  My husband called the insurance agency to claim the loss.  He called the car insurance company as our car was reportedly the only way to identify our house and it was badly damaged.  My husband called his father to see if he could go to Joplin the following day to get our personal informaiton from a water tight box in our basement.  He said he would.  We took phone call after phone call.  Everyone brought relief and bad news.  We called our airline to try to change our flight and Delta was very generous.  Within only hours after the storm, Delta changed our flight and had us confirmed on a 1:30 flight the following afternoon.  They did not charge us a fee for changing our itinerary and comped our luggage.  We went down stairs to our lobby to discuss an early departure from our hotel.  They said it would not be a problem given the circumstances and provided us breakfast for the following morning.  We went up stairs to check on our friends.  I was glued to my phone and computer all night waiting for more information and updates on my friends.  I could not sleep.  Fourteen hours had passed since we were told of our loss. 

I finally fell asleep after relaxation exercises and a Xanax...