PORTLAND, Ore. – Jack Jewsbury wasn’t standing shoulder-to-shoulder with President Obama on Monday as he viewed the progress being made a year after the devastation caused by a massive tornado that hit Joplin, Mo.
But the Portland Timbers captain, a native of the small town that made national headlines last year when a twister killed 161 people, was a keen observer of the solemn remembrance ceremonies earlier this week, including the President’s commencement address to the 2012 graduating class of Joplin High School.
The high school was one of the hundreds of buildings that were destroyed in the country’s worst tornado disaster in six decades. On Friday, groundbreaking ceremonies are scheduled at a number of sites throughout the town, including Joplin High School’s future home.
“Obviously it was a huge tragedy, but it’s something they’ve been rebuilding in the last year,” Jewsbury said. “And they’ve made huge strides, so it’s good to see.”
In the aftermath of the disaster last year, Jewsbury partnered with the American Red Cross to allow Timbers fans to make donations to the Joplin disaster relief. At Jewsbury’s request, Red Cross representatives were also on hand at JELD-WEN Field during the Timbers’ May 29 game against D.C. United to collect donations, and his efforts earned him the MLS W.O.R.K.S. Humanitarian of the Month award for August.
He was able to visit family in Missouri during the offseason and view the restoration efforts first hand. Jewsbury’s uncle lost his truck-accessories business in the storm, while another aunt and uncle and one of his cousins also lost their homes.
“I’ve still been in touch with my dad who talks with his brother and sees him week in and week out,” Jewsbury said. “The rebuilding process is still happening.”
The MLS veteran, who stared at Kickapoo High School after his family moved from Joplin to nearby Springfield and then in college at Saint Louis University, said the help provided by Timbers fans meant a lot to him and his family. He said he’s been impressed by the town’s resilience during the year of recovery.
“The community as a whole has come together and has made it a point to not only get it back to where it was but make it bigger and better,” he added. “Whether it’s been people from here or people from all over helping out, it’s been huge for that community. It’s really been neat to see everyone come together for a good cause.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.