Last night I had the honor of attending the Joplin High School graduation, one year after the horrific tornado that tore through this town destroying homes and taking lives. President Obama spoke at the graduation, and we cheered on the new graduates, celebrated the town’s recovery, but also remembered the lives that were lost.
As I drove through Joplin, I was stunned at how bright, vibrant and warm the community appeared. There were new homes and restored businesses, as well as renewed energy and pride. There were also stark reminders of the devastation – the remains of the high school (pictured above), the crumbling hospital and boarded up homes. But what struck me most were the determination and almost a sense of moral obligation that the people of Joplin have embraced. It’s as if they want to honor the tens of thousands of volunteers and donors who helped them and show that their efforts and generosity were put to good use.
During the graduation, I sat in the crowd shedding many tears and thinking of all of the people around the country who supported Joplin through the Red Cross in its time of crisis. To everyone who donated to the American Red Cross for the Joplin relief effort, I want to thank you. You likely will never meet the people you have helped, but your generosity will always be remembered in Joplin. It has made an incredible and tangible difference here, and it will never be forgotten.