July 4 is a special day to my family and our community. We have always celebrated our nation’s independence with family and friends. Hamburgers and homemade ice cream are on our menu. Everyone brings a lawn chair, cold drinks, sparklers and night fireworks.
This year, on July 4th, we will once again gather our family together to honor our nation and give thanks for our freedom. But in Joplin, we will hold our families and friends closer than we ever have as we also celebrate and give thanks for the survivors of our town’s devastating tornado of May 22nd. We will bow our heads in remembrance of the 158 people who died as a result of this terrible tragedy.
As the sun rose the day after the tornado, the magnitude of the damage brought us all to our knees as we saw our homes, businesses, schools and churches in rubble. Damages to Joplin are approaching $3 billion. Our schools have damages totaling over $150 million; 7,500 homes have been destroyed; and 5,000 jobs have been affected. Our task to rebuild is almost overwhelming. The cleanup and the rebuilding processes are well on their way.
As a citizen of Joplin and the Missouri state senator for the 32nd District, I want to say a heartfelt "Thank you" to everyone who has helped us during this difficult time. We are all indebted to the volunteers here and across the country who have worked tirelessly to help us. We are grateful for all the financial assistance from around the world. Children have raised money selling lemonade, and thousands of church groups have come in to help. Individual volunteers and organizations from communities have touched our hearts with their selfless acts of kindness.
This disaster has impacted hundreds of thousands of individuals — not only in the Joplin area, but across Missouri and its neighboring states — and many are continuing to reach out and provide the help and support so many people need. Most recently, I was appointed as the chair of the Senate Interim Committee on Natural Disaster Recovery. In this capacity, I will work with my fellow senators to examine the state’s response to natural disasters, specifically relating to how our state responds in the areas of emergency, fiscal responsibility and insurance.
I am also dedicated to making sure the committee focuses on job creation and how we can work to get those in areas affected by disasters back to work. Natural disasters throughout the state have impacted many communities, and we want to ensure that the state is doing all it can to help with response and recovery efforts.
As my family gathers together this Fourth of July, we will proudly fly the United States of America flag and remember those who have served and made the ultimate sacrifice. We will also celebrate and give thanks for all the help and encouragement you are giving us.
God bless Joplin, and God bless America.
Ron Richard represents Dade, Jasper and Newton counties, which include the town of Joplin, in the Senate of the Missouri General Assembly.