As most of you are aware, on Sunday night our home was hit by a tornado. Growing up in Oklahoma, taking shelter from this kind of weather is somewhat of a springtime tradition. I mean, every kid growing up in Oklahoma wants to be a meteorologist at some point in his or her life. But as familiar as we thought we were with severe weather, we never could have prepared ourselves for what happened on Sunday evening.
Yes, our house was destroyed. Joplin has been all over national news. I woke up Monday morning to Al Roker reporting live three blocks from my house. It's been a wild week.
We have heard from so many of you over the past 48 hours. I hate that I haven’t been able to reply to each of you directly and as clearly as you deserve. I know you have a lot of questions. Many of you have offered to help. This is my response.
Is everyone okay? Yes. We are so thankful that everyone is safe. That’s not cliché, that’s the truth. Our neighborhood is no longer recognizable but Torrie and Alice climbed out of the basement without a single scratch.
What happened? Torrie and Alice were home alone when the storm hit. I was in north Joplin working near the CIY office. Though it was incredibly stormy there, it did not compare to what took place in the south part of town. Essentially, the F5 tornado ran for four miles and stretched from 20th street to 26th street. Our house was on 23rd street. Though she was literally right in the middle of the storm, she did everything right. She made quick, clear-minded decisions and, as a result, saved herself and our five-week old girl. I’m telling the story because it’s my blog but she is the hero. I’m so proud of her.
What is the city like now? I’ve told people that the only way I recognized my house Sunday night was the green paint on the walls in Alice’s old room. The rest of the neighborhood looks completely different. Every example I can think of (war zone, bomb, ground zero) seems weird and out of place. I’ll put it this way, I’ve lived in that neighborhood for six years and I no longer recognize it. Very surreal.
What happens next? We’re not 100% sure. We trust that the rest of the details will slowly be sorted out. We have insurance. Things are replaceable. Needless to say, we have never made a move like this before. I have no idea what the process of rebuilding and finding a new home is like. We’re taking it a day at a time. That’s not cliché either. It’s also true. And I think today is Wednesday.
Where are you staying? Our dear friends Chase and Abbey took us in the night of the storm. They are the salt of the earth. I’ll never been able to repay them (or write eloquently enough about them) for their sacrifice. We’re at their place now. Additionally, we do have a semi-permanent place to land for the time being. Later this week, we’ll be moving into a house in Carthage, MO (10 miles outside of Joplin). We will be able to stay there for a few months until the next chapter begins.
How can I help? We have been overwhelmed by the love and support of the people surrounding us. Emails, text messages, phone calls, facebook posts… they all mean so much. We have the best friends and family in the world – too many to name and thank here. I’ll get to thanking each of you some day, I promise. Everything from diapers to clothes to baby furniture has been dropped off for us or put in the mail. We’re grateful for it all. At this point, I’m not sure what to tell people what we need when they ask. But know this, we will need a lot and honestly, at this point, don’t know exactly what. Here's the deal, I would never look to profit from this tragedy, but I’m going to ask that you simply help financially. We pulled a lot out of the house but I just don’t know what we’ll actually be able to use once we have time to go through all of the trash bags. Everything from laptops to a car will need to be replaced. At the moment, we’re living out of a suitcase and will need to simplify over the next few months. But soon we'll need to buy new dishes, towels, bedding, baby monitors, and the list goes on. We simply have no place to put these things in our temporary housing. Does this make sense? Hopefully this is a decent request. Gift cards for groceries would also be helpful. If you feel led to give, you can send it to: Eric Epperson 2201 N. Main St, Joplin, MO 64801.
What else can I do? Hopefully, you will feel compelled to help out the greater community as well. I know so many people hurt by this disaster. If you are looking for other ways to help, please get in touch with our church. They - and several other churches and groups here - are doing amazing things here. If you are looking for a more personal connection, I have friends who were also hurt by the storm. Some lost more than we did. I would love to put you in touch with them if you would like to help. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
How's your dog? Atticus is fine. He is staying with my mom in Tulsa where he is served table scraps and sleeps on the bed. This might be the best thing that has ever happened to him.
I’ll be posting additional updates on twitter throughout the week. Torrie and I are thankful for you. Seriously, for helping us pull furniture out of a crumbling house during a downpour, for praying, for calling, for loving us, I can’t say that enough. We love you.