Picking up the Pieces in Joplin, MO
With half of the small city of Joplin, Mo., destroyed by the second-deadliest tornado in United States history, relief workers and rescue personnel are pouring into the Midwestern town to help its scarred and tattered population.
Along with the American Red Cross and local disaster agencies, Rabbi Yehuda Weg, the Tulsa-based director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Oklahoma, was headed into the worst of the destruction with a list of Jewish community members in need or missing. He stocked a car with food and clothing and was expected to arrive in Joplin late Monday night.
“This is absolutely horrific,” said the rabbi, who goes to Joplin twice a month to supervise kosher production lines at several food manufacturers and to meet with local Jews. “This tornado was six miles long and almost a mile wide, and went right through the center of town.”
Weg said that those missing following the tornado included two brothers active in the Jewish community. One of them lives across the street from Joplin High School, which was reduced to “a pile of bricks.”
Omer Mani, an Israeli expatriate who operates a kiosk at the Northpark Mall, said that he was at work when the severe storm system came barreling through town late Sunday afternoon. The mall withstood the winds, but when he returned home to his unit at the Plaza Apartments, he found a scene of immense devastation.
“Everything is destroyed,” said a shaken Mani. “I lost everything.”