The Associated Press
Joan Heinzman lost her job as Hall County Civil Defense director just before June brought tornadoes to this central Nebraska city, slashing through her family's business and smashing her daughter's home.
But despite personal tragedy, Mrs. Heinzman viewed the twisters that devastated Grand Island Tuesday night as a community-wide blow. There she sat Wednesday at Civil Defense headquarters, four days after losing her job, fielding telephone calls to issue vital information to her neighbors of 30 years.
"I couldn't in all conscience stay away," she said. "It's almost like being married to this job."
Mrs. Heinzman paused at CD headquarters in the basement of City Hall to field another phone call. It was her husband, Wayne, who asked why she was there. Because he was home and didn't need a ride from her, she told him she would stay on awhile.
Back to the business at hand, she continued with staccato information into the phone and asides to a reporter about the circumstances surrounding her loss of the CD directorship.
For 13 years, Mrs. Heinzman ran the CD effort, obtaining along the way training in her craft and preparing for the kind of massive emergencies that came with the tornadoes.
"You just can't run away from it," Mrs. Heinzman said of the work that goes on even if she's not in command. "I walked in and said, 'Do you want me to go to work?' and everybody said, 'Yes." So here I am."