'Buzz' Cunningham heads to Joplin, Mo.

DeWayne Bartels
Lyle Cunningham is in Joplin Mo. as a volunteer for the Red Cross.

Lyle “Buzz” Cunningham left the American Red Cross Central Illinois Chapter Headquarters under gloomy skies May 26.

Cunningham, 66, a Metamora resident, was headed to the gloomy town of Joplin, Mo., left reeling by a fatal tornado that devastated the town on May 22.  

Cunningham — with a little over one year’s experience with the Red Cross — said he will be working in disaster public affairs.

 “I will take pictures and work as a liaison between government agencies and the Red Cross,” he said.

“Say the Mayor of Joplin has needs he can tell me what they are and I will coordinate with the Red Cross. I am going to be a link.”

Cunningham, a retired consultant in human resources for Caterpillar, has some experience.

“I did a little of this in Streator when it was hit by a tornado about a year ago,” he said. “I’ve had extensive training since then.”

Cunningham said he has never been to Joplin before so he has no way to judge how the place looked before the tornado that has grabbed national headlines.

“I’ve been told to expect a lot of disruption and devastation. I’ve been told it’s very grim there,” he said.

Cunningham said he feels he is prepared, both physically and mentally for this trip which could last as long as three weeks.

“Disasters are all different, but the same in that people are suffering a lot,” he said. “All of us do this to give back. What I want to accomplish is making sure everyone has a safe place to sleep, hot meals and to give people comfort.”