GTH man feels emotional impact of tornado
His grandfather’s home is destroyed. A wing of the high school he attended is crumbled. Joplin, Mo., where Germantown Hills resident Brandon Durham lived for 23 years, is in ruins.
As the death toll continued to rise from a Sunday tornado that ripped through Joplin, Durham traveled Monday to the town, where 12 of his family members live.
While they made it out of the tornado unscathed, not all of their property was so lucky. One of Durham’s grandfathers took cover in a bathtub as the tornado hit, and when it was over, the bathroom was one of the only rooms left standing in the house.
Durham, 33, plans to help his family salvage whatever is left when he reaches his hometown.
Durham saw pictures of the damage online after his relatives called to say they were OK. Family members told him that trees were gone, and roads were blocked off from smashed cars and debris. Growing up in Joplin, Durham heard about tornadoes touching down in the region, but Sunday’s tornado was more major than any storm he had ever experienced, he said.
“You just get used to them passing by, so you just kind of assume they always will,” he said.
Ann McEnroe of Peoria, who also grew up in Joplin, learned of the devastation through Facebook Sunday night. Her first thoughts were of her mother and stepfather, Dennis and Kathy Conrow, who still live there.
She was able to reach her mother and found out she and her stepfather were OK, McEnroe said.
“Then I was just worrying about others I knew there and their families,” McEnroe said.
Through Facebook, McEnroe found out her friends, too, were all right. But the church and elementary school she attended, St. Mary’s, were “rubble,” she said.
MeEnroe plans to head to Joplin in two weeks, she said.
Milo Streitmatter, 67, of Toulon is a volunteer with the Central Illinois Chapter of the American Red Cross who will fly out to Joplin Tuesday. Streitmatter, who has volunteered with the Red Cross for nine years, will work in Joplin as a logistics chief, in which he will oversee operations such as inspecting buildings to make sure they haven’t been damaged, tracking where Red Cross vehicles are, and ordering items such as cleanup and comfort kits, shovels and gloves. The Joplin visit will mark the first time he has been appointed to the position of logistics chief.
Streitmatter is no stranger to traveling around the country to disaster-ridden areas. He helped out with tornado relief efforts in Bristol, Va., from May 1 to 12 and spent 37 days in Tennessee last May after floods hit there.
“Every time I go out I learn a little bit more about my job,” he said. “I don’t classify myself as an expert yet. I have a lot to learn.”
Streitmatter expects to be in Joplin for two weeks, he said.
Erin Miller, communications coordinator for the Central Illinois chapter of the Red Cross, said she thinks more local volunteers will be asked to help in Joplin. The chapter covers 10 counties in the region.
This spring has kept Central Illinois Red Cross volunteers busy, and four are coming home from around the country, Miller said. The Red Cross chapter already has sent four volunteers to Memphis, Tenn., one to Little Rock, Ark., seven to Birmingham, Ala., one to Baton Rouge, La., one to Jackson, Miss., and one to Virginia.
At one point toward the end of April, the Red Cross had 25 relief operations going on in half of the 50 states, Miller said.
“It just seems like it’s been one thing after another and another,” she said.