Overturned cars, mattresses strewn from trees with nothing but twisted springs, and houses that are transparent because only one side is still standing doesn’t even begin to describe the destruction seen from the 4 team buses as they pulled up to Joplin High School Thursday morning.
“I was on the bus with all the coaches and players and it went from a talkative bus to dead silence,” said GM Scott Pioli.
Wednesday marked the one month anniversary of the tornado that tore through Joplin that Sunday evening in May and a crew of over 150 players, front office staff, and team personnel showed up to help with the clean-up efforts and lend a much needed helping hand.
“We arrived and right as we got off the buses we got right into the mess,” said Pioli. “We didn’t really need direction because we all knew, as you can see plainly, what kind of help was needed.”
“You can tell them whatever you want to tell them but the reality really sets in when you come over that hill and you see a 2 by 6 mile radius of just pure destruction; it looks like a nuclear bomb went off,” said Cassel. “I’m just happy that we’re down here as an organization, I’m happy that we’re down here as players, and like I said to bring a little bit of joy to a very tough time I’m sure to a lot of these families and a lot of these people.”
The day started off going to one home that was destroyed and clearing debris from the yard. In most instances, cleaning up a yard would be a mindless task but today, it couldn’t have been more different.
“You walk in the rubble and all of a sudden you’ll see a family picture or a child’s picture and your heart drops and your mind starts racing,” said Pioli. “That is as unsettling as anything, to put faces with what’s actually out here that’s the part that’s just really unsettling.”
After the cleanup, the crew took a tour of the city with Americorps; a relief crew that has been on the scene from day one. It brought chills and goosebumps to every passenger on the buses that drove past houses marked with messages such as, “God Bless Everyone” and a mural where people have been contributing hopeful thoughts and blessings for the city. The pseudo graffiti served as a reminder of the devastation that had wiped out everything but the hope that emanates from the Joplin residents.
“They found about 60 miles away parts of an xray machine,” said Scott Woodin of Americorps as he talked about the destroyed hospital.
He also talked about how quickly the situation is improving and that 2 weeks after working on some houses people were already mowing their lawns.
After the tour, the team went to Forest Park Baptist Church where inflatable playsets were stationed for kids and the players and coaches signed autographs for the hundreds of Joplin area residents whom came out for a fun afternoon with the Chiefs.
“I do know that all the people of Joplin are so appreciative and even if they’re not here they’re so appreciative of it,” said Joplin resident Sue Metz. “We drive through it to and from work and if they weren’t affected they know someone that was and it’s nice to just be able to have you come down here and take our mind off of it for a few hours,” her husband Phil added.
Players were encouraged to come out as well and those who could, joined nearly the entire coaching staff to help out the Joplin community, something team president Mark Donovan is very proud of.
“Talking to [Chairman of the Board] Clark [Hunt] last night we were both overwhelmed with the response,” said Donovan. “Anybody who wanted to come down was welcome to come with us and we loaded 4 buses of people and there were people who were personally affected by this and they were the first ones on the bus. It’s great to see and gives you a lot of pride to be involved with those kind of people.”
"The Chiefs have remained active partners in the relief effort in Joplin since the days following the tragedy, and we sincerely appreciate the Chiefs players, coaches and staff who volunteered their time today to help in the ongoing recovery efforts," said Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. "Clark Hunt called me yesterday evening to reaffirm the Chiefs long-term commitment to the people of Joplin, and I commend the Hunt family and the entire Chiefs organization for their dedication to the cause."
While it was a very successful day and everyone who came out had a good time, Pioli said this isn’t the last of the Chiefs’ relief efforts in Joplin.
“We’re not even close to done,” said Pioli. “It’s just important that everyone understands we can’t forget Joplin, not just the Chiefs I’m talking about the community. This is our community, this is where we all live, this is a part of where we are and this is going to be an ongoing effort.”
There is still much work to be done in Joplin, and if you would like to help, you can donate money through the Chiefs facebook page or purchase hats and shirts like those worn by Chiefs staff in Joplin. All net proceeds go to tornado victims in Kansas and Missouri and are available at the Team Store at Arrowhead stadium or online at kcchiefs.com.