Instructor: Come help next time we go to Joplin

David Serafini

Imagine for a moment that last spring, an EF-5 tornado came

through Bowling Green. The Scottsville Road area — totally

devastated, the 31-W Bypass — mass destruction, perhaps even the

WKU campus would have suffered extraordinary damage.

If you can imagine just such a scenario, you might understand

what happened in Joplin, Mo., on May 22 of this year. 

On that Sunday at approximately 5:41 in the evening, tornado

winds in excess of 200 miles per hour ripped through a city roughly

the same size of Bowling Green.

Around 7,500 homes were damaged or destroyed, as were more

than 500 businesses, affecting more than 17,000 people


The tornado generated an estimated 1.1 million cubic yards of

commercial debris and three million cubic yards of residential

debris and counting. 

The Joplin Humane Society and the American Society of the

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) say that 1,308 pets were

displaced by the tornado. 

And then there is the human toll. As of late September, 162

lives have been lost as a result of the tornado. One of the

fatalities was Will Norton.

Will had just graduated high school that afternoon, and was on

his way home with his father to join the rest of the family, who

had gone ahead of the storm.

Tragically, the tornado hit as Will was literally seconds away

from safety and as he was calmly quoting Scripture, Will was ripped

literally from his father’s arms. 

The search for Will took several days, and involved numerous

media appearances by his family and a Facebook group to update

family, friends and the general public. 

Will did not survive the storm, but many thousands of others

did. They, and the city of Joplin, needed then — and still needs

today — the help of volunteers from across the region and the


While I watched Will’s story unfold, I kept coming back to one

thing — I saw in him and from hearing his story the tremendous

potential he had. 

I see this same potential in each of you – the students, the

Spirit of WKU. It was in Will’s honor that I have organized two

trips now to Joplin to assist in volunteer efforts. I am privileged

to be the adviser of the Beta Phi Chapter of Phi Sigma Pi National

Honor Fraternity and we have represented not only our Fraternity,

but all of the WKU community.

We plan to return as often as possible and I encourage each of

you in the WKU family to join us in becoming involved however


Whether you come back with us in 2012, take part in a

fundraiser or even if you give blood to the American Red Cross,

anything that you do for Joplin is needed and much


Everywhere we have been in Joplin we proudly display the Red

Towel, and explain the WKU Spirit to those we encounter and ask us

where we are from. The gratitude we have been shown by total

strangers has been overwhelming.

Your generation is often maligned as being nonchalant and


But, I have seen the best of you, not only in these many years

I have been teaching, but in these trips. I would love to have you

join us when we return for Joplin III in 2012.

In the end, we are each other’s keeper, and here on earth, as

President John F. Kennedy once said, God’s work must truly be our


David Serafini

History instructor and Beta Phi Chapter of Phi Sigma Pi

National Honor Fraternity adviser