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Jane Cage's eyes fill with tears when she thinks of the death and carnage she has lived with since a tornado wreaked havoc in Joplin, Mo. where she lives, works and prays.
Cage has seen a big chunk of her community obliterated and buried friends like Tripp Miller, a 49-year-old with Down's syndrome who was living in a group home with two other developmentally disabled adults and a caretaker. "That's the hardest to talk about," says Cage, who is a member of the same First Presybeterian Church that Miller attended each week. "Their house must have been directly hit. He must have been so scared."
Miller is one of 153 people killed when, on that Sunday May 22, the tornado struck Joplin, wiping out an estimated 8,000 buildings and 300 businesses. To put it plainly, the tornado ripped a hole in the fabric of the lives of this close-knit community of 50,000. An estimated 18,000 Joplin residents have been displaced. The first trailers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) arrived just this week.
Cage, the COO of Heartland Technology Solutions, a Joplin Mo., solution provider that helped push forward a fundraising campaign to get community members and businesses back on their feet, came to Jacksonville, Fla. Friday to Everything Channel's XChange Public Sector conference to make a plea to her colleagues and members of the technology community to make donations that will allow children to start school in some 56 days with computers, notebooks, and other school supplies that are badly needed. Four school buildings were completely destroyed and the total damage to the schools is estimated at $150 million.
"We have a whole district full of school children who have seen things that they shouldn't see and who have lost their homes and have lost everything they know," Cage said. "And everyday they drive through it because you can't go from one side of town to another without seeing it. We have to work hard to make school right for kids."
Cage showed XChange attendees an emotional photo montage of the destruction set to the backdrop of The Mark Chapman Band's "Where Would You Go If You Couldn't Go Home." The slide show included before and after scenes of Joplin High School and The Franklin Technology Center which were both completely destroyed by the Tornado.