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Freeman thanks governor and first responders - KOAM TV 7

Freeman thanks governor and first responders

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The one year anniversary of the tornado kicked off bright and early this morning with a memorial service at Freeman Hospital West to honor those who helped save lives and those whose lives were saved.  

During the "Morning has Broken" ceremony, Freeman CEO Paula Baker unveiled the plans for the Beacon of Hope monument dedicated to the lives lost.  Baker also says the healthcare workers played a big part that night and the weeks after, saving lives.

More than 1,700 victims of the tornado sought treatment from Freeman - 750 of those in the few hours just after the storm hit.  110 Freeman physicians and 347 nurses reported to duty that night, performing 22 life-saving surgeries in 12 hours.

Baker also honored Governor Jay Nixon with the Freeman Fellow award for helping so much after the tornado.  Governor Nixon is the seventh person to receive this award in 90 years.  A bronze plaque of Nixon will hang at Freeman West.

He says the health care workers are the ones who deserve to be honored.

"This hospital was already full when the tornado hit, but that didn't stop them from going the extra mile, reaching into the rubble to save lives," Governor Nixon says.  "It's a very inspirational story of the confidence in this health care system and the people and their hearts behind it."

Governor Nixon has visited Joplin on several occasions including right after the tornado and when Joplin High School's mall campus was built.

"Many people have mentioned that the eyes of the people, state and the world are on Joplin, and they are not on Joplin by accident," says Governor Nixon.  "They are on it, speaking the inspiration that is true here, not something fake, not a cliche, but a reality.  The reality is that when the most deadly tornado in American history hit, the people didn't give up and they didn't leave."

Governor Nixon says he wants to thank Joplin residents who stepped up and helped since the tornado.

First responders were also honored at this morning's event, the first time METS workers have been honored for their service after the tornado.

EMS workers came from many counties the night of the tornado and the days to follow.  Metro Emergency Transportation System of Joplin had a meeting and discussed where everyone needed to be stationed.  METS not only transported patients to and from Freeman, they also set up triage stations throughout the city.

METS Director Jason Smith says he is grateful his coworkers were honored but gives credit to residents who transported the survivors.

"Just really on behalf of all of the EMS, we'd like to thank the community for their support," Smith says.  "Had they not jumped in and helped the way that they did, helping us treat patients or transport patients then probably a lot more lives would have been lost.  So really the big pat on the back goes to the community, citizens of Joplin and surrounding areas."

And Freeman patient Malachi Murdock thanked those that helped him recover from his wounds.  Murdock had graduated from high school only two weeks prior to the storm.

He had finished a performance at Stained Glass Theatre when the storm ripped apart the building, killing three and inflecting him with nearly fatal wounds.

Freeman officials say it's important to honor those who have helped Joplin along the way.

"I think it was a wonderful opportunity for us to come together as a community for a day of remembrance of healing, to honor the victims of the tornado, as well as the heroes," says Baker.

More than 100 balloons were released at the end of the service, honoring both the survivors and victims of the storm.

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