Hometown reflection, Joplin tornado one year past

May 22, 2012

Whether its 365 days, 8,784 hours, 527,040 minutes, or 31, 622, 400 seconds it all breaks down to one thing:  One year ago today Joplin, Missouri suffered a level of devastation not seen since Berlin, Tokyo, Hiroshima and hundreds of other cities around the world were reduced to rubble by the ravages of war.

In just 32 minutes, a mile wide EF5 tornado took a third of my home town and turned it into a war zone.  Thousands of homes were destroyed, hundreds of businesses were gone, and ultimately, 161 lives would be lost.

In a little more than half an hour, Joplin went from a peaceful Midwestern city in “flyover” country to the focal point of hundreds of millions the world over.

And oh how those millions focused.

If there is but one bright spot from that moment it is the response from so many, for so long since.  From locals to strangers half a world away, the tens of thousands of volunteers and their hundreds of thousands of hours did more than just pick up debris and jumpstart a rebuild.

They reminded each and every one of us of that in an all too often negative world, compassion and good does still exist.

They gave each and every one of us hope when so many had lost all.

By holding a hand, giving a hug, and sharing a tear when it was needed most they helped us put the proverbial “one foot in front of the other” on the path to recovery.

One year ago today that path was anything but clear.  One year ago today I began the scribbles for the column that would appear three days later in the Joplin Globe.

One year ago today, I had no idea just how deep our “strength from within” truly was.

One year later, I could not be more proud of Joplin or be more humbled by what so many have done.

The debris in the video to the left may now be removed but the scars it left will be with us forever.

Thank you all and God Bless each and every one who helped in your own way.

Reprinted below is the May 25th, 2011 column  “Drawing deep from our strength”.

Three years ago at this time the funerals were barely over and cleanup continuing in the wake of the Iris Road tornado of May 11, 2008.

With the signs of that devastation still visible and its wounds still not fully healed, we now find ourselves enduring what was never imagined just three short years ago: something far, far worse.

It took less than half an hour for a beautiful Sunday afternoon in May to be transformed into a burning, living hell.

The shards of shattered glass, two-ton vehicles tossed like matchbox toys, trees stripped bare, buildings instantly turned into ruins, all became testaments to the fact that no matter how far advanced man’s technology, it is all minuscule in the path of a rampaging Mother Nature.

While it is already in the history books as one of the deadliest tornadoes in Missouri history, I feel (and I know) that it will also be written in those history books as our finest hour.

An hour when we, along with our surrounding area neighbors, did not falter, did not hesitate.

An hour that while destruction was still being wreaked on Range Line, survivors were already assisting victims on Maiden Lane.

An hour that lasted long past the setting sun and well into its rising the morning next.

An hour that saw a small, Midwestern community show the world the very best of its best: its people.

We give a heartfelt, collective thank you to all who answered the call within those first critical hours and who continue on without concern for self as they render their assistance to whomever and wherever needed.

Our thoughts and prayers go to all the victims and their families, (their loss unimaginable to those of us spared). And while the devastation and pain cannot be ignored, we cannot be blind to the many accounts of the miracles of life now arising from the piles of hell.

We wish we could say, fear not, we’ve overcome worse. We can’t. For there has been no worse.

But neither should we fear we shall not overcome. We will. For that there is no doubt.

And while the answers will be few and the questions many for the coming days, weeks and months there is one thing that is certain: Come this next Sunday evening, the satellite trucks will be gone, the anchors will have flown back to their chairs on the coast, and the nation’s attention will have shifted on to the next catastrophe of the moment.

Come this next Sunday evening, we will still be here.

We, you, me, us, they, them, I … all the words that make “us”, “us” and Joplin the community she is.

We will be doing for our family, our friends and our neighbors what we have always done: taking care of each other from the strength found within ourselves.

You have done well, Joplin, you have done quite well indeed.

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2 Responses to Hometown reflection, Joplin tornado one year past

  1. anson burlingame on May 22, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    And yet the job is far from over. As well I hope and expect that the rebuilding, over the coming months and years will have a goal of improving on the past, not just rebuilding that which we had.

    That takes money, effort and leadership of the finest sort.

    I noted in the AP Story recently in the Globe that $2.4 Billion is reconstruction funding is coming from PRIVATE sources, primarily insurance companies, those dirty, greedy, only in it for themselves insurance companies of which we hear so much about today. Only about $500 million thus far from “government” according to the AP.

    Now how exactly are those insurance funds allocated? It is between the companies and PRIVATE individuals by and large in strict accordance with contracts previously established.

    Want to rebuild your house. Great. The insurance company writes YOU a check and you then proceed to contract with others to rebuild. Do you HAVE to use “prevailing wages” to do so. No way. Do you HAVE to build a certain style or size of home. No way unless you come into conflict with zoning laws, locally administered, not federally administered.

    Look at it this way. Financially Joplin is rebuilding with an 80% financial “contribution” from private businesses and only 20% from all government. Charities will probably kick is another 5% – 10% as well. And no way can anyone put a $ sign on volunteers or quantify their remarkable contribution in terms of dollars. To that and my guess is the total government percentage would go down to the 10% range of total financial contribution to Joplin’s rebuilding, about where it should be for the distitute, in my view.


  2. Geoff Caldwell on May 22, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Excellent points. To hear the dwainbwains talk we’d still be picking through the rubble if it wasn’t for Dear Leader and his federal government.
    Yes, the feds DID help but the vast part has been paying for the debris removal and the temp FEMA housing.
    When it’s all said and done I would love to see a complete analysis as you’ve started on the private/federal breakdown.
    I guarantee you none on the left would agree to a federal government along the same small percentage that the study would show.
    I will say though that I was pleased at least that Obama didn’t overtly promote the agenda at the graduation ceremony. Sure there were a few between the lines lefty undertones but nothing so blatant that couldn’t be handled.
    I ran into a buzzsaw today on a conservative website when I said as much and though I’m normally a top commentator on this one I’m on the last page because this time I didn’t fit the rabid right narrative. Putting together a column on it for tomorrow or next day, I think you’ll appreciate.


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