May 15—The tornado that hit this community a decade ago taught us much about ourselves, our community, our resilience. and there was much to like in what we saw in one another and in ourselves. As Karen Bostick writes in a column on this page, "It brought out the best in most people."
We made mistakes, for sure, and sometimes, amid the exhaustion and uncertainty, tripped up in that effort to be our best, but we can be proud of the work, the sacrifice, the sweat we put in that hot summer that followed May 22, 2011, and of the homes, businesses, schools and lives that were rebuilt. We should be most proud of the bonds that were built.
Maybe the tornado offers one other lesson worth considering in these divided times, where bonds are too readily strained and thrown off: It took all of us — all of us — working together, living together, in it together, to get our city off of its knees and back on its feet.
It took the mighty financial and organizational resources that the public sector can bring to bear, whether that was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Emergency Management Agency, or those large state and federal grants. But even that wasn't enough. It also took the private sector — businesses, clubs, churches and more than a hundred thousand volunteers — to be the boots on the ground, cleaning up the rubble, patching up the wounded, revving up the chainsaws and framing the homes.
The lesson of the Joplin tornado is that neither arm alone was capable of lifting us back up at the time; it took both, and with both working together amazing things happened.
It's a lesson not just for us, of course, but for our state, and for our country, that whatever the challenge or crises we face, we must face them together, left and right, as a community and as a nation. You see it's going to take all of us, and all of our resources, both the private and the public sector — let's call them the right arm and the left arm — lifting together to build the community and the country that we want to leave our children. We can discuss the proper role and limits of each, but changes happen when both work together rather than being at odds.
Joplin demonstrated that.
This is a week to look backward and celebrate what we accomplished in the past 10 years and also a week to look forward at the extraordinary things we now know we can and will accomplish.
But mostly this is a moment to look side to side, to our left and to our right, and to see once again the best in our neighbors and our community to reaffirm and renew the old bonds.