Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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November 7, 2012

Joplin's hearts are with East Coast neighbors

By Carol Stark

CNHI News Service

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Almost 18 months after one of the deadliest tornadoes in history cut a swath through the heart of Joplin, I discovered these words of wisdom from Emerson, a writer I have often admired.

They leapt off a page of copy I was reading, grabbing my attention.

I could have used the poet's sage advice in the dark days that followed May 22, 2011. Fortunately, my newspaper and my town -- minus the prose -- were a testament to Emerson's words.

Here in Southwest Missouri, we call it pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. I don¹t know what it's called it on the East Coast, but I bet it's equally descriptive. After all, New York City had its heart shattered in 2001, surviving the unthinkable. Now, Hurricane Sandy has wreaked havoc, claiming lives, homes and power, leaving chaos and confusion in its wake.

Clifford Richner, publisher and president of Richner Communications Inc., reached out to me earlier this week. I had met Cliff in September at a newspaper conference in Atlanta where I had the opportunity to tell Joplin's story. He was one of the first to offer a hand when I shakily stepped down from the stage. Tears where streaming down my face. Speaking about the tornado¹s devastation always takes me back to the horrible night I stood in the newsroom, talking to no one in particular, asking what I was supposed to do next.

I immediately recognized that same angst in Cliff's voice when he called.

The strain of fatigue, worry and frustration told the story before Cliff did. Many of his employees aren't sure if their homes would be livable. They have lost their vehicles. Those who still have homes, don¹t have power. Cold weather is bearing down on them.

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