For today’s first, I visited the Joplin Public Library’s Post Memorial Art Library, where the Angels for Joplin Exhibit is displayed. Perhaps because it was in the library, or perhaps because of the nature of the exhibit, there seemed, to me, to be a quiet reverence in the room.
Artist Tricia Courtney created these angels, known as assemblage sculptures, from debris after the May 22, 2011 tornado struck Joplin. Tricia has made hundreds of such angels, selling them and then donating the proceeds to help with tornado relief. Many people who lost their homes brought items they had salvaged to Tricia and asked her to create an angel for them.
Almost three years after the tornado and I’m still deeply moved when I see items made from debris, when I hear of stories like this. The emotion of that day is forever seared into my heart and soul. The sights and sounds will never leave my brain. Some of that emotion rose in me today as I looked at Tricia’s angels of hope. Memory stirred and then settled down, leaving a slightly increased heart rate and moisture in my eyes. These sculptures were made with debris that came from my neighborhood. It seemed so significant, that I’d been drawn to view the exhibit and then discovered that fact. The broken scrap of wood and that rusty vent cover might have come from my neighbor’s house, my daughter’s house. It was sobering.
And yet I felt hope and a sense of the miraculous, looking at the sculptures. The real stories associated with these angels came immediately after the storm. Many, many tales surfaced about how angels protected survivors. Stories were told of tall muscular men in spotless white clothing who appeared in the midst of the chaos to help and then, impossibly, disappeared. Children spoke of giant butterflies that covered them and their loved ones. I believe those stories. They are an integral part of Joplin’s history now.
I appreciated each unique angel and the creative and compassionate heart of Tricia Courtney. And I appreciated the reminder that life and hope win out, no matter how severe the storm. Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” I choose the latter. Thank you, Tricia, for helping me to remember that today.