Amidst the devastation and destruction in Joplin, MO, I witnessed immeasurable generosity, caring and compassion. It began at incident command, where Theresa Newton helped run the K9 search efforts despite having lost everything she owned, her house, her car, everything. Chel Demery worked days on end deploying K9 teams effectively and efficiently, while keeping us safe. I believe there were over 50 search dog teams and Chel had everyone's back, making sure our dogs had the team support and medical care needed to successfully search for the missing.
I was especially moved by the support teams that were assigned to work with each search dog team. What an incredibly selfless group of people - helping each other through the physical and emotional difficulties of the search and recovery work. Firefighter Andrew Benton gave me the hard hat off his head. Matthew Perry helped me squeeze into a collapsed area of a church. Kevin helped me pull ticks off of Scout and got us to shelter as a huge storm rolled in. Other team members vigilantly watched for dangers - live electrical wire, nails, hazmat, shards of metal and glass; structural soundness.
At East Middle School, after K9 Scout and K9 Lilly searched the destroyed auditorium, firefighters took over, 4 teams working together in the rubble to ensure that every lost person was found and accounted for. K9 teams from different regions worked together. I was blessed to work with K9 handlers Dusty Carver, Scott Yates, and Terra all from Joplin. A K9 team from Nebraska also helped me through a difficult moment, kindly sharing from their years of experience responding to mass disasters across the world. Joe Marsillo, Mike Burgess and John Blair, with Region G MO K-9 Unit took me under their wing. It was both a professional honor and a personal blessing to work with these handlers, first responders, and volunteers.
For all of you and many others whom I have not mentioned, I thank you for your selfless, heroic efforts. I am humbled to have played a very, very small part in recovery efforts in Joplin. And to the people of Joplin, I so admire your grace, resiliency, and humanity in the face of disaster. You are an inspiration that will shine in my heart, guiding my efforts with K9 Scout and Remy to help other families and communities.