Strangers flocking to help Joplin residents

Joplin strangers help
Mary Hazelbaker, center, is helped by her sister, Eileen, and an until-recently stranger, Tammy Davis, on the right.
CBS News

It's been a somber Memorial Day weekend in tornado-ravaged Joplin, Missouri. There are still 29 people unaccounted for, and FEMA is just coming around to saying it will consider bringing in trailers for some of the homeless.

CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy reports that many of the homeless are still picking through what's left of their belongings.

For 83-year-old Mary Hazelbaker, who has no children and is widowed, all of her memories are strewn across a pile of debris. All she has left now is her sister, Eileen, who drove from Kansas to help her sort through the mess. However, even the two of them are struggling in post-tornado Joplin.

"I'm sore...and I didn't do a whole lot," Mary said.

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Shortly after the tornado left, help did arrive. Tammy Davis and her son, Daniel, heard about Mary on the radio, and they just showed up, even if this isn't where a 12-year-old wants to spend his holiday weekend.

"Well I would rather be places, that's the honest truth, but it's a good feeling to be out here helping her," Daniel said.

Mary lived in her now-destroyed home for 50 years. She had lots of things, but only cares about one box - a box full of pictures she can't replace.

About 30 volunteers suddenly appeared one day, and they lifted Mary's furniture and her spirits for a while. But when there is so much need, help has to keep moving.

The Davis family took Mary in for five nights, and then got her into a home set up for tornado victims. When they visited her one day recently, they had a surprise, the box of pictures she so craved.

"I don't know what I would have done if it hadn't been for (the Davises,)" Mary said.

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Mary survived the tornado because she was at church at the time and huddled in a closet. Another church group in town has offered to build her a new house. Mary says the upside to all this is no more rummage sales.