May 13, 2008, Richard and I were in Joplin, Missouri, where our friends, Jack and Jeannie Dickson live. They had just arrived at our bus so we could go out to dinner. I may be from Florida where we are known for hurricanes, but I am no stranger to tornados. The sky turned putrid green. I said a tornado was coming. We closed all the window shades, got down on the floor as hail loudly pelted against the metal sides of the bus and the wind vibrated the floor.
We later learned it was the edge of an EF4 tornado that took seven lives in a nearby Oklahoma town about 2 miles away. We went on to Alaska with $20,000 worth of hail damage to our bus. Scary!!
On the morning of May 23, 2011, my son Ryan called me early on that Monday morning and asked if I’d heard from Aunt Jeannie. I said no. He told me to turn on the news. I think I may have been in a little bit of a state of shock when I saw the devastation that had been done the evening before to a six mile strip of Joplin, Missouri. I immediately started calling Jeannie, but got no answer.
I stayed glued to the television for hours, my heart in my throat. I finally got in touch with her and found they were okay. They’d been on their way back to Joplin from Springfield. They had been out of the storm’s actual path, but not of the severe downpour and debris falling all around them. Jeannie was in the floorboard praying. Once they got back to town, they couldn’t get to their home for 24 hours. They spent the night with Jeannie’s sister who lives in an undamaged part of Joplin. A lot of the destruction was very near to them. They had minor damage compared to the war-like scene they had to drive through to get to their home. Their motor home was stored a couple of miles away, which they couldn’t get to for several days.
Here are some of the statistics about the EF5 that shredded 30% of Joplin, Missouri.
“The trees will grow back, the houses will be built back, but the lives lost here, we’ll remember forever.” --Governor Jay Nixon
May 22, 2011, at 5:41 pm, for twenty minutes, wind exceeding 200 mph left a path of destruction through a city of 50,000 people. That path was three-fourths of a mile wide and six miles long.
161 people died
8,000 buildings destroyed
Half of the city’s schools were destroyed
7th deadliest tornado in US history
My daughter-in-law, Heather works at the Jacksonville Humane Society. She was part of a team sent to Joplin to work with the rescued animals. She was here about a week.
Of course, I can’t show you pictures of the aftermath, but here is a link that will give you an idea of what Joplin looked like. Before and After aerial view of Joplin
Each one of the 161 people who lost their lives (some died several weeks later) had their own story. I’ve read about each one. I’d like to tell you about a couple that (as a mother and grandmother) touched me deeply.
William Richard "Will" Norton, (18). Will and his father were on their way home from Will’s graduation from Joplin High School. The storm hit and pulled Will through the sunroof of the car. His father had held onto Will’s body until the storm sucked him from the car. The young man was found in a pond a few days later.
Skyular Logston (16 months old) Skyular was sucked from his mother's arms as she, Skyular’s father and grandparents hunkered down in their home. His injured parents and grandparents survived.
Christopher D. Lucas (27) Pizza Hut manager lauded a hero for getting customers and employees into a walk-in freezer. He tried to hold the door shut, but couldn’t. Christopher was Navy veteran with 2 children and a third on the way.
Kayleigh Savannah Teal (16) A sophomore at Seneca High School was working at the Pizza Hut when the storm hit.
There were many, many more sad stories. Many people died in the hospital which is now in the process of being rebuilt.
Today a tornado hit Wichita, Kansas and that weather cell is now headed to Joplin. I’m getting ready to go to bed, cover up my head, and pray like crazy that it isn’t my time to go. I’ll check back in tomorrow to let you know how Richard and I made out. One thing we have decided is that we won’t be back to Joplin between the dates of May 13-May 22.
New Construction of Joplin High School
which is approximately 5-6 blocks from
Jack and Jeannie's home.
Until next time,