President Barack Obama returned from a whirlwind trip to Europe May 29 and heading straight to Joplin, Mo., where neighborhoods were reduced to rubble during a May 22 tornado. Some 122 deaths have been confirmed and some 1,500 are still missing.
At a memorial for lost loved ones on Sunday, the president lauded the heroism of some who lost their lives while saving others in Joplin: “And, in the face of winds that showed no mercy, no regard for human life, that did not discriminate by race or faith or background, it was ordinary people, swiftly tested, who said, “I’m willing to die right now so that someone else might live.”
Almost as much as dealing with domestic and international issues, President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have found themselves comforting victims of natural disasters over the past several months. Among them:
In mid-May, thousands of people, threatened by flooding from the Mississippi River, were forced from their homes into shelters. Though thousands of acres of corn and other farmlands were lost, the river – swollen after severe weather – reportedly crested at 47.8 feet, 14.1 feet above flood stage. States of Tennessee and Louisiana were also majorly affected by the flooding. Still, Obama met with some who were affected.
In late April, the president and first lady visited Tuscaloosa, Ala., after deadly tornados killed at least 300 people and more than 100 remain homeless.
In Japan in March a devastating earthquake and tsunami that followed killed more than 250,000 people. President Obama met with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan during an international summit in France last week. Obama promised reporters that Japan will emerge “stronger than ever.”
That was also the hope as thousands gathered at the Missouri Southern University on Sunday to mourn lost loved ones in Joplin. Comforting the crowd, Obama mostly focused on how the best in people comes out during disasters.
“A university turned itself into a makeshift hospital,” he said to applause. “Some of you used your pickup trucks as ambulances, carrying the injured … on doors that served as stretchers. Your restaurants have rushed food to people in need. Businesses have filled trucks with donations. You’ve waited in line for hours to donate blood to people you know, but also to people you’ve never met.”
He concluded, quoting Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri: “As the governor said, you have shown the world what it means to love thy neighbor. You’ve banded together. You’ve come to each other’s aid. You’ve demonstrated a simple truth: that amid heartbreak and tragedy, no one is a stranger. Everybody is a brother. Everybody is a sister … We can all love one another.”