May 22, 2011 – Remember, Rejoice, Rebuild

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I am a Native Oklahoman, born and bred in the Sooner state. I take great pride in saying that I am from Oklahoma. That being said, this displaced Okie is extremely honored to be a part of the City of Joplin, Missouri. The strength, grace, and unity that this town has demonstrated over the past year has touched my heart in such a powerful way.

None of us will ever forget where we were on May 22, 2011 at 5:41pm when an EF-5 tornado ripped through the heart of our city; leaving a path of destruction nearly a mile wide and 13 miles long. 161 lives were lost as a result of the most powerful tornado recorded in 6 decades. Homes, businesses, and schools were decimated. The loss was devastating.

Just minutes after the storm hit however, out of the rubble, heroes emerged. The word neighbor took on a whole new meaning. As the dawn broke the following morning, Joplin began the seemingly impossible task of putting life back together. Volunteers from around the state, the nation, and the world flooded in to offer assistance. Our government, our civic groups, and our faith based community worked hand in hand to begin the healing process that our city so desperately needed.

Several schools were damaged beyond the point of being able to be used. Some were a complete loss, including Joplin High School and East Middle School. The talk around the nation was that Joplin Schools would not be able to participate in a 2011-2012 school year. Students would have to be farmed out to surrounding school districts. But our school officials, led by Dr. C.J. Huff, said, “No! That is not an acceptable solution.” They vowed that every Joplin High School, Middle School, and Elementary Student would all have a place to go to school in the Joplin School District by the time the school year began in just three short months. And they kept their word. Every student had a place by the time the bell rang on the first day of school last August. Joplin High School Juniors & Seniors were introduced to a state of the art temporary facility at Joplin’ Northpark Mall. You can see a tour of the faculty in the Joplin High School Lip Dub put together by the Joplin Students. Life went on despite the tragedy we had experienced.

Over time, homes were rebuilt. Businesses reopened; not just big business, but the small businesses that are the vital heart and soul of Joplin. Small business owners like Liz Easton who lost her home and her business in the tornado. She debated at first whether to reopen her bakery. Maybe it would have been easier just to work out of her home. But that Eagle Pride pushed her to persevere. And I can tell you that this big boy is very happy that Cupcakes By Liz is set to reopen in just a few days on June 1.

The stories about the progress Joplin has made over the past year are countless and to write about them all would take more space than this blogger has on a free blog post site. So I will conclude where I began. I am proud to be Joplin Strong. This city will continue to be a story of inspiration. We will always REMEMBER May 22, 2011 … We will REJOICE over the unbelievable progress that has been made thus far … And we will REBUILD a better Joplin for future generations.

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