A Declaration of Endurance

This headline (the title of a newspaper article) – A Declaration of Endurance (the ability to do something difficult for a long time) – caught my eye (got my attention) as I was looking through the New York Times online on the 4th of July, the day we Americans celebrate our independence (freedom). I started to read:

For the last few nights, brief shimmers (soft shaking light) of fireworks have sparkled (shine in small bright flashes) in the dark skies over Joplin, heralding (announcing) the approach of another national birthday. But the monstrous (very large) tornado that mowed  through (went through the town like a grass-cutting machine) here six weeks ago forced (make someone do something they don’t want to do) the city to change its Fourth of July plans.

That much didn’t surprise me. Six weeks ago, Joplin, Missouri – in the center of the U.S. – was nearly wiped out (destroyed) by a monster tornado. Here’s how the New York Times writer described it:

A first-time visitor to Joplin today might gasp (breath loudly and suddenly when you are surprised) at the sight of some of its neighborhoods: the destroyed and vacant (empty) houses; the stripped (without bark or branches) trees; the front steps leading to emptiness (nothing); the crushed (broken or badly damaged) cars evoking (causing us to remember) the dead; the many streets that … have no power, no light, no life.

Such is the aftermath (result) of an EF5 (the most powerful) tornado that landed and lingered (stayed for a while) on the Sunday evening of May 22, carving (cutting like a knife) across the city’s belly (center), carrying winds of more than 200 miles an hour, changing everything. Dozens were killed, more than 7,000 buildings — schools, churches, a hospital — were damaged or destroyed, and a city’s economy was upended (turned upside down, badly damaged).

After the tornado, there was only destruction (ruin, damage) as far as you could see in any direction. Almost everything that people were used to seeing was gone. Today, six week later, everything has changed – again:

Joplin is now a study in tidy (neat) devastation (destruction), if such a thing is possible, with many swept streets, many [cleaned-up] front yards and many neat (orderly) mounds (piles) of debris (what’s left when something is destroyed) at curbside (beside the street). For example, where the concrete-and-steel remains of [a popular organization] once sat, in sad memorial (memory) to four dead, there is now a spotless foundation (bottom of the building)…. With the dead now buried, and the displaced (people without homes) now sheltered (have a place to live), it is focusing (concentrating) on removing the debris, so as to see the possibilities beneath.

When I remembered everything the people of Joplin experienced, I’m wasn’t surprised to discover that they had changed their traditional 4th of July celebration this year. What surprised me is that they insisted on making it “bigger and louder and better than ever” (You can learn more about that by reading the article.)!

As I read the article, I was moved (had strong feelings). This was not just a story about the people of Joplin. It was more. It was a story about the American spirit – the ideas, beliefs, feelings, etc., that you will find in many Americans.

I couldn’t find a specific description of the American spirit online. But maybe that’s the way it should be because spirit shows up (appears) in different ways in different situations. In Joplin, the American spirit has shown up in the resilience – the ability to become strong, happy, or successful again after a bad situation or event – of the city and its inhabitants (people who live there).

The first President Bush talked about resilience in a speech he gave after he lost the election to President Clinton in 1992. He said “I could also see every day in ways large and small the resiliency of the American spirit.” He described many of the difficulties the people of the U.S. had faced (experienced) and how they had bounced back (recovered) from them. And he said that “our advantage has been our spirit, constant confidence” – in other words, our resilience. The people of Joplin are good evidence (proof) that he was right.

~ Warren Ediger – creator of Successful English, where you can find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Photo by John T. Pilot used under Creative Commons license.


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15 Responses to A Declaration of Endurance

  1. Peter says:

    Heavy Warren,
    I got goosebomb reading your article
    Man ,heavy stuff
    I didn’t know about the mishap
    Sorry pal
    It is sad that you have everything tuning your work ,your life ,family and all of sudden, bang!!!!!
    A tornado came landing and destroy and level in a fraction second what people have built over the course of their life
    Man ,
    It is harsh
    Thanks for the beautiful article
    I m touched bro
    Powerful stuff
    Resiliency has a limit though
    If one bends past that limit he/she can’t bounc back wareen at least not mentally,and psychologically
    And ,as you well know, psychological damages scar for life
    God bless America

  2. Peter says:

    With due all respect,
    I found American sometimes tooting their hornes
    Seems like this article directing that way
    I just reread it and enjoyed it again
    It is a very well-written article
    But ,favor Americans a bit with all resielency talk
    You know what,natural disasters happen everywhere. No matter where it happens the disaster-stricken people usually get back on feet and start again.
    They try to chin up and lift their spirit with helping one another.
    It is not sth particular to Americans
    Sorry pal
    Hopes live everywhere and in every soul

  3. Peter says:

    What is fiesta ?
    It is kind of Spanish ceremony ,isn’t it?

  4. Myo ko ko says:

    I think this is the first time I have commented on Warren’s blog post.
    Well again 🙂 this doesn’t imply that I do not read yours!
    I read all blog posts here in this blog ( as much as I could )
    But you know, I don’t have Internet access of my own.
    To say and be blunt, now I am reading this post in an Internet Cafe.
    So I have to save some time so that I don’t get charged more money for using this Internet access.
    For this reason, I am always in hurry when I surfe the Web because I have many stuff to do on on-line– checking my Mailbox, downloading my friends 🙂 ESL podcasts,
    reading your blog. trying to leave comments to let Jeff, Lucy and yeah you know I am with you in this very blog.:) and so on…..so many stuff !!
    For these reasons, I try to solve this ” stuff traffic” by printing out some posts of this blog. I read those print-outs at home, drinking a cup of Expresso coffe — actually it is a darker and richer coffee– like what Jeff usually do while he is recording the great ESL podcasts. 🙂
    Anyway, I am learning English in this very website — the only source for my English learning, I dare say ! 🙂

  5. Peter says:

    Always this kind of discussion effects me deeply on every level.well ,as I said before,once,I lived a disaster myself.
    I felt and experienced every second of an earth quick.
    This kind of incidents sear indelibly into disaster-stricken people’ memory
    The disaster happened 25 years ago and I still bear a vivid memory of it. Feels like it was yesterday that I was walking through debrise and rubble.
    The earth quick had reduced the city to nothing
    The city was wiped out ,all buildings were leveled
    Very gloomy,sad day
    Even the dismal sky was crying to mark the day
    You discuss it ,you feel sorry for the grief-stricken people ,you send your help yet you never could feel the agony that grips the people at the time of disaster
    It is like some power way bigger than themselves has plummeted the result of their whole life into nothing and they can do nothing about it.
    They feel hopeless ,powerless ,they feel distraught on every level
    I can’t get it out of my mind
    I just vented out
    We are all victims of circumstances,damaged and chipped
    You move on with your life but the memory of the hapless mishap always sticks and never chips away.
    I live it once
    Can’t live it twice

  6. minerva says:

    Hi allof you!
    I admire the Joplin’s people persistence.
    Thank you Warren for this instrutional topic,that be alesson of life to me.
    Best wishes from,

  7. Betty says:

    Thank you so much, Warren, for introducing such a well written article to us.

    I think your intention of quoting the article was to show us how to write good essays. You did not mean to tell us this natural disaster or how ‘tough’ Americans are. Am I right?

    By following the link you provided us, I was able to find the original New York Times article. It was very well written, I wish I can write good essay like that.
    I really appreciate Peter’s saying in his message above.

    He said:

    ‘You know what, natural disasters happen everywhere. No matter where it happens the disaster-stricken people usually get back on feet and start again.
    They try to chin up and lift their spirit with helping one another.
    It is not something particular to Americans’.

    This article reminds me of Warren’s topic ‘The Big One’ on Thursday, December 2nd, 2010. It also reminds me of how my life was turned upside down when some burglar went into my house some years ago to steal my valuables and then the insurance company treated me like I was the suspect, before finally compensated me for the losses.

    I nearly lost my will to live. But like the title of the New York times article suggests – A Declaration of Endurance – I decided to fight on, and succeeded in stopping the dirty tricks played by the insurance company which practically ‘add insult to injury’.

    Thank you very much indeed, Peter, by telling us ‘Hopes live everywhere and in every soul’.

    Apparently, even learning English as a second language needs endurance (the ability to do something difficult for a long time).

    A BIG THANK YOU to all teachers and everyone in ESLPOD.com team for producing ESL Podcast to help us ‘become independent in English’.

  8. sara says:

    Dear Warren Thanks for another great one. All the nations have spirit of their own , hope it always shows up in a good way.

  9. So why did I write this post? I wrote this post share an experience with my readers, to help them better understand and feel what the people of Joplin experienced several weeks ago. I wrote it to show how they have responded to one of the worst tornados in history.

    And while writing it, I thought, “I’ve heard this story – the story of resilience – many times. And I thought, “This is something I’d like my readers to know about us, about Americans, just in case they’ve never heard.”

    When you look at a writer’s work, it’s as important to understand what they didn’t say as what they did say. For example, if I’m writing about cheetah and say they’re are fast, am I saying that antelope, lions, and gazelle are not fast? Not at all. In the same way, if I’m talking about Americans and say they’re resilient, am I saying that Russians, Italians, and Japanese aren’t resilient. Again, not at all. I’m sure it’s true of people from many countries. Also, if I say that cheetah are fast, would I be saying that they are better or more important than other animals. Not at all; that might be horn tooting. To say that cheetah are fast is simply to say something true about them.

    Finally, I didn’t write this article to teach something about essay writing though I hope there is something for readers to learn from everything I write.

  10. J.Henrqiue says:

    The people of Joplin has given a good proof of their strenght and endurance. We all must learn from these people, don’t mind what can happen we can recover and find strenght and hapiness again. What a good example.
    God bless people from Joplin. That’s the kind of news that might be showed in the newspapers rather than personal life of people or useless news. Good article Mr. Ediger.

  11. emiliano says:

    Impress me very much all the natural disasters humans are suffering along these last years but usually
    in humans appear their best virtues when it has been necessary or we are going through really hard episodes
    of our life.

    Having in mind last scenes of Japanese people after the tsunami on Fukushima or now people of
    Joplin after the big tornados, it gives me hopes that humans may have their best feelings and
    forces when we are really suffering.

    Solidarity and help actions moves our inside good reactions and endurance is one of them.

    To me is always a lesson what these people gives us confronting their new life without anything
    they have before but remaining the essential to survive just inside their heads and hearts.

    Endurance, hope and solidarity with the others is what humans show when this natural disaster
    isolate our living.

    Yes, it is a vivid lesson to read your post Warren, thank you so much.


  12. J. Henrique says:

    This article reminded me the lyric Beautiful Day from U2 :

    “The heart is a bloom. Shoots up through the stony ground.”
    “After the flood all the colors came out.”

  13. Betty says:

    Hi Warren, thank you so much for further helping us with understanding English reading.

    I read your article again and again to try to appreciate the contents more thoroughly, and I read your message again and again as well so to pick up the points in the message.

    You message will help me improve my thinking when I look at a writer’s work in future. Yes, you are absolutely right, ‘it’s as important to understand what they didn’t say as what they did say’.

    Thank you again, Warren, you are a very good teacher who cares about his students.

    Best Regards

  14. emiliano says:

    Your post Warren has been absolutely clear and helpful, at least for me, and despite its clarity you have needed to clarify it
    even more.
    Some times I do not really understand how badly our words could be interpreted and I agree absolutely with what you
    said in your second remark.
    As an example, the same as yours…….

    If I said that Cuca is nice and beautiful I am not saying that other women, my neighbor or a friend´s wife, are not beautiful
    or nice, of course there are thousands of nice and beautiful girls and women beside my nice Cuca, that is for sure.
    Lucy for instance has to be a nice and beautiful young woman, I am sure about that, but also Tania, Betty, Michelle, Sara
    and so many nice girls and women friends who write here.
    Sure that all of them are nice and beautiful in so many ways that should be impossible to describe here.

    I use to get angry when people misunderstand my words or phrases so easily.
    Don´t worry about the matter, it is always the same just in the moment you say something good about a person, the
    characteristics of a country or their people there must be somebody that gets you are saying or meaning the opposite
    idea about the rest of the humanity or the lack of these virtues among others not mentioned expressly.

    All my best Warren and thank you very much.


  15. ethan says:

    Considering the recent situation in the US, this story is quite suitable for those who needs some encouragement. I just want to keep my fingers crossed for people in Joplin.

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