Lynchburg College Grad Home from Helping in Joplin, MO

Reporter: Mark Kelly l Photojournalist: Sally Delta

Lynchburg, VA - Lynchburg College graduate Richard Szymczyk got his diploma then packed his bags for Joplin, Missouri after tornadoes tore the town apart.

That small Midwestern town, Joplin, stole the country's heart when it was devastated last month. Those who've seen it for themselves say pictures don't do it justice.

Szymczyk says folks in Joplin are uplifting. One lady lost her husband in the storm. But came back to the house looking for her wedding ring -- and found it.

Szymczyk has many stories like that after more than a week in Joplin; they are many great lessons for a fresh college grad.

Szymczyk traded his graduation gown for a Red Cross vest, not really sure what the mission would hold. He got to Joplin two days after the tornado. The destruction and the hurt still fresh.

"You look up in to a tree and there's a bumper and a tire to a car. There's someone's roof top stuck up in it. And everywhere you look, there's piles like if Home Depot collapsed," said Szymczyk.

For a small town, Joplin's devastation felt monumental.

"We just started walking and we'd walk for miles. Just as soon as you'd think you'd see a part of it, you'd realize you hadn't seen a fourth of it yet," said Szymczyk.

Proud of his son, dad Richard, says they've known since High School he would do emergency work. When other students volunteered as a requirement, he says Richard took it one step further and became a certified EMT.

"He owes his life to adventure. He's a scuba diver, avid hiker, kayaker, caver. He does all that stuff," said dad.

And now after his work in Joplin, Szymczyk enters the real world with a lesson many adults never learn -- don't sweat the small stuff.

"Cable goes out or something. Life goes on. It'll be fine. It's not anything to get upset about," said Szymczyk.

A great lesson for all of us to hear. Szymczyk graduated from Lynchburg College with a degree in health promotions and health sciences. His dream is to do emergency work full time. He wants to be an international search and rescue medic.