I was born in Joplin, Missouri, at the hospital that wasn’t destroyed by the tornado.
I grew up in Webb City, Missouri, the next town over. Joplin is a football rival.
I can’t tell you how many times I shopped at the WalMart that was destroyed.
I went to college in Joplin. My school, Ozark Christian College, opened the multipurpose building for the Red Cross Disaster Relief Community Center. Classrooms were used for overflow YMCA childcare, dorms were opened for volunteer housing, and the chapel and rooms in the library were offered to several displaced churches to use for their services.
I moved to Texas in 2007, but I spent the first few days of May 2011 visiting friends and family in Joplin. I remember having this feeling that I needed to look around and really take everything in. It was a strange sense, but I obeyed. I had no idea that just a couple weeks later, much of it would be gone.
I haven’t been back yet to see the changes for myself, but one of the things I love about Joplin are the trees. Large, beautiful trees that are nothing like the “trees” I see here in west Texas. And now, many of those trees have been literally stripped of their glory.
There are two or three blocks in Joplin that have these beautiful, older houses that I always enjoy admiring when we’re in town. They are not far from WalMart. Google Earth shows that many of these houses are damaged or gone.
It’s been a year since that day. Even with all I’ve been told, I can’t imagine what life has been like in Joplin since May 22, 2011. I know that tornado shelters have been built and warning systems are being reevaluated. But the rumble of a garbage truck in the early morning or a darkening sky and quickening wind startles the people of Joplin and brings everyone’s eyes to the sky.
They city will rebuild, and has already been rebuilding, but the people will never be the same.