May 22, 2011 is a day that anyone from southwest Missouri will never forget. It doesn't matter if you still live in the area or have moved away like me, it is a day that forever changed your life. On that day, a devastating EF-5 tornado swept through Joplin, Missouri leaving over 2,000 buildings and 7,000 homes destroyed, and taking 161 lives.
On this date last year, I logged onto facebook and saw my cousin's status "A tornado just hit our house". I immediately tried calling him, texting him, messaging him and waited and waited for a response. I called my mom (who lives about 15 miles from Joplin) and she said they were fine. I text my old roommate and she said they were fine, but Rangeline (one of the main streets) was gone. My cousin finally responded saying that he was fine and that the house barely got hit, but that Staci's (his sister) whole neighborhood was gone and that they couldn't get a hold of her. I sat here feeling helpless wondering if my cousin and her boys were ok, I finally got a call from one of my cousins saying that Staci and her boys had been found walking down the road and they were all unharmed. I found out that my old apartment was gone, a couple of my close friends houses were gone and a fellow classmate lost his life saving his wife. For the next week, our tv was on either The Weather Channel or CNN or I was on facebook watching as much footage as I could. It got so bad that Jeremy finally had to tell me that I couldn't watch either of those channels anymore. I felt so helpless. I wanted to be able to help, but didn't know what to do. I was devastated and I was 1800 miles away, I couldn't imagine how the people right in the middle of the destruction were feeling. It was all so surreal. Growing up, the tornado sirens always went off, but nothing ever happened. Now Joplin residents live in fear.
I finally got to go home for a visit end of September 2011 and couldn't believe my eyes when I actually saw all the destruction. Driving down main street and Rangeline, everything seems fine and looks perfectly normal and then all of a sudden everything is GONE! It looked like a ghost town with rubble everywhere, trees completely stripped and buildings left half standing. Much of the town was already cleaned up at this time and many businesses had already started rebuilding. My old roommate and I rode bikes through the path of the tornado and I just couldn't believe how much was gone. Half the time, you couldn't even tell where you were. Street signs were gone, stop signs and stop lights were gone, landmarks were gone. Tresh and I could barely even tell where the road was to our old apartment. All that was left of our apartment complex was the pool. My mom said that for the first time ever, she was was glad I no longer lived in that apartment.
Jolie, Tresh and Me at our apartment pool in 2008
Picture Tresh took of our apartment complex a few days after the tornado
The pool and where our apartment used to be October 2011
Rebuilding the Docks apartments May 2012
Over the last year, I have become so proud of Joplin and proud to be from the area. The community has come together like I never would have thought possible. It has forever changed the way we all feel about JoMo! My heart is filled with joy, love and hope for the future of Joplin. I have no doubts that Joplin will overcome this horrible devastation to become an even better, more beautiful place.
This is a song written and sang by one of my classmates after the tornado. I wonder if I will ever be able to watch this video without crying.
I love you JoMo!!!