JOPLIN, Mo. – Face to face with the legions of homeless and the bereaved, President Barack Obama on Sunday toured the apocalyptic landscape left by Missouri’s killer tornado, consoled the community and committed the government to helping rebuild shattered lives.
“We’re not going to stop tillJoplin’s back on its feet,” Obama vowed. A memorial service where Obama spoke punctuated a day of remembrance one week after the disaster, as authorities pressed on with the task of identifying the victims and volunteers combed through wreckage of neighborhoods where nothing was left whole.
The service erupted in cheers when Obama said, “I promise you your country will be there with you every single step of the way,” a pledge he extended to all parts of the nation raked by violent storms this season.
Air Force One flew over a massive swath of brown – a land of flattened houses and stripped trees – on its approach to Joplin. On the ground, the destruction was even more stark and complete. Obama confronted painful sights at every turn and said nothing in his life measured up to what he saw this day.
Yet he spoke, too, of redemptive moments, the stoicism of the community and tales of plain luck. And he celebrated the spirit of volunteers who have flocked to Joplin to help, the pickup truck owners who ferried people to the hospital and the citizens who lined up for hours to donate blood to people they don’t know.
“You’ve demonstrated a simple truth,” he told the service, “that amid heartbreak and tragedy no one is a stranger. Everybody is a brother. Everybody is a sister. We can all love one another.”