My Return to Joplin, Missouri

From Google Maps - Clearly Show the Path of the Tornado

Over my Christmas break, I was able to go home to Missiouri for three weeks. This was my first time back in Missouri since Christmas 2010, and my first time to see Joplin since the May 22, 2011 tornado. The first thing I did when I arrived was drive through Joplin. I did not even go home first! I had to see what had happened to the city I knew so well. I was very surprised by what I saw. The debris had been removed and the rebuilding process was well on its way. Down every street there were new houses, reopened businesses and busy construction workers. It was a far cry from the images and live video I watched last May. It was great to see how the community had come together to clean-up and rebuild.

What is most shocking when visiting Joplin is the clear path of the tornado through town. Despite the rebuilding, the absence of trees and houses down most streets between 26th and 14th Streets is eerie. While in Joplin, I visited a number of the familiar sites: Joplin High School, which is currently being torn down, St. John’s Hospital, which is now being torn down, and the homes built by Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (you can watch the Joplin episode here). I visited Cunningham Park and the memorials that have built within the park remember those who died and those who volunteered to clean-up the city.

I took a number of pictures and some of them are in the slide show at the bottom of this post. However, the two images below, I think, are the most important because they best illustrate the devastation. The fist image is from Google Street view showing 20th Street before the tornado. The second image I took looking down 20th Street on January 2, 2012. The difference is astounding.

20th Street from Google Street View

20th Street Today

What was most rewarding about visting Joplin was to see first hand that Joplin is recovering. Everyday there is news of businesses reopening and families returning to new homes. Joplin is not done rebuilding, but after visiting Joplin myself, I am happy to report that the city is well on its way to recovery.

UPDATE: Be sure to read the comment below from one of the volunteers who helped construct the playground equipment pictured in Cunningham Park. He also included a link to a behind-the-scenes video of the construction of this equipment. It is volunteers like him who have helped ensure Joplin’s recovery.

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2 Comments

Filed under Joplin Tornado

2 responses to “My Return to Joplin, Missouri

  1. Kinda sad to see noone playing on the equipment 😦 What time were you around Cunningham Park? I plan on coming back down to hopefully take my son to play on the wooden playground.

    My team built the wood playground. I say “my” team but It wasn’t mine. There were 8 of us on the actual “build team” and hundreds of volunteers from Drury University, Pitt State University, Navy “sea-bees”, AirForce recruits.. it was a BLAST! EMHE has said there were over 13,000 volunteers for the event, on the website over 84,000 people signed up to help.

    Here is a “in the making, behind the scenes” type video I shot on Oct. 25th at 4:53am.

    (not sure if the video will work on your blog, so a link is below to the actual YouTube video)

    I was about to leave, I had to get back to KC and a job I got the blessing to push back a week from the homeowners 🙂 When you are going to do some good.. people want to help 🙂

    Think that is the greatest thing about growing up in the midwest.. Everyone has a huge heart.. and I have never felt the gratitude I felt while in Joplin.

    Your hometown is well underway of getting back on its feet.. but needs SO MUCH MORE help. If you are reading this and feel like donating, please do.. every bit helps.. and the people of Joplin deserve their lives back.

    Nathan Deneault
    Atlas Coatings & Construction
    (913) 980-3823

    • Thank you for the comment. I was there in late December/early January and it was very cold the afternoon I was there. I am certain the play equipment will be a hit once it warms up, especially since a new elementary school is to be built where St. John’s currently stands. A big thanks to you an your team for all your hard work in the Extreme build. Cunningham Park has become a symbol for what Joplin can become.

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