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Missouri, Illinois lawmakers lament losses, offer help, in wake of storms, tornadoes

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 29, 2012 - Missouri’s two U.S. senators, and their counterparts in Illinois, have weighed in with statements of sympathy, prayer and concern in the aftermath of the overnight storms and tornadoes that struck both states' southern portions late Tuesday and early Wednesday, killing more than a dozen people.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said:

“My thoughts and prayers are with the folks in southern Missouri, and across the Midwest, who’ve been touched by this tragedy. We’re learning more about these storms by the minute — and Americans tuning in are seeing the fast work of emergency responders, quick decisions by community leaders, and the resilience of Missouri’s families and businesses. My staff and I are standing by to provide support to these communities and I plan to work with the rest of our delegation to make sure Missourians have the resources necessary to rebuild.”

Said U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.:

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the families who have been impacted by this recent storm. We are monitoring this situation very closely, and I urge anyone who needs assistance to contact my office and to heed all safety precautions issued by local officials. As Missourians have always demonstrated in the face of adversity, I have no doubt that our communities will rally together to rebuild and our neighbors will serve as the first and last responders during this time of need.”

Updated with Illinois legislators:

In Illinois, the office of U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, a Republican also expressed his concern:

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the thousands of people in southern Illinois, and throughout the Midwest, who experienced the devastation and destruction brought on by this morning's storms. The office of Sen. Kirk expresses deep appreciation and tremendous gratitude for the hundreds of emergency response personnel and volunteers who have taken rescue and cleanup efforts upon themselves. We are working closely with the members of the Illinois delegation, will be following all future developments, and stand ready to do anything we can to assist in this difficult time."

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., offered his assessment during a speech on the Senate floor:

“My heart goes out to the people who have lost loved ones. My thoughts are with the residents of these hard-hit towns and with the first responders and Red Cross volunteers who are working to assess the damage and aid the injured. I have spoken to Jonathan Monken, head of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, who assures me that all requests for state and FEMA assistance are being met. We will continue to keep that promise, and I am committed to doing everything possible to help these communities respond to and recover from this disaster."

U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, also is working with other Illinois legislators to make sure storm victims are helped.

“The loss of life, injuries and property destruction in the southern Illinois communities in the path of this tornado are heart-wrenching and my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families,” said Costello in a statement. “I will continue to monitor relief efforts and will work with state and local officials to offer any assistance to help with the recovery.”

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.