Since the Tornado: Joplin at Year 5

Scott Harvey / KSMU

“I survived. May 22, 2011.” Those are the words on the shirt of Dave Hodges. The words accompany an image of a pickup truck – its windows blown out - parked next to Commerce Bank along 20th Street in Joplin. There’s debris everywhere. Inside that truck is where he and his wife, Lynn, rode out the storm five years ago.

“And at the time we were thinking – I know I was thinking – if anything bigger than this pea-sized stuff that’s hitting me right now comes through and hits me it’s gonna be over,” he said.  

Joplin High School Commencment 2016
Michele Skalicky / KSMU

In this segment of KSMU's Sense of Community Series, Michele Skalicky highlights a celebration taking place five years after the deadly storm.

Sunday was a day of celebration for some in Joplin, a community devastated five years ago when an EF-5 tornado swept through the middle of the city.  While it was the anniversary of the deadly storm, it was also graduation day for Joplin High School.

Randy Stewart / KSMU

Dr. Hubert Bird spent 30 years on the music faculty of the University System of New Hamphire, and has had a distinguished career as a composer, conductor, educator, and as a tenor soloist. Dr. Bird was born in Joplin, Missouri and grew up in nearby Baxter Springs, Kansas, where he now lives. Like the rest of the world, he was stunned by the devastation suffered by the city of Joplin in the May 22nd, 2011 EF-5 tornado. As he told me on the phone from his home last week, Dr. Bird went to Joplin to see just how bad it was.

Emily McTavish / KSMU

The number of Federal Emergency Management Agency safe rooms in Missouri has more than doubled since an EF5 tornado hit Joplin in 2011. According to the State Emergency Management Agency, 72 FEMA safe rooms were completed across the state between 2012 and February of this year.

Kathryn Eutsler/KSMU

  “Remember when we first brought her, how hard that was," says Leslie, my mom.

My mom, my brother, and I stand in an empty lot on Moffet Street in Joplin. It probably doesn’t seem like a particularly sentimental scene: a man in a ball cap is mowing the grass, the sun is shining; We’re just three people standing there in our shorts, shading our eyes from the sun. 

“We left her here and she kept saying, ‘when are you going to come back," mom remembers.

Six years ago, we moved our 85-year-old Aunt Geneva from our home in Joplin to a nursing home called Greenbrier.