Joplin - 5 Years Later

On May 22, 2011, an EF-5 tornado tore through Joplin and neighboring Duquense, killing 161 people.

As part of KSMU's quarterly Sense of Community series May 18-23, we examined the recovery efforts since the storm.

View our stories below to hear from city leaders and community members about the rebuilding challenges, successes, and resiliency of those involved over these past five years. 

You'll learn about the Disaster Recovery Summit, a two-day event bringing together citizens and leaders from other tornado-stricken communities to assess recovery efforts, how tornado safe rooms have become commonplace in southwest Missouri since the storm, and how the city and school are honoring those lost as a result of the tornado.

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.  

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.

“Pomp and circumstance”

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Nicole Brown / Missouri Southern State University

For natural disaster victims, the length of a recovery has become synonymous with the distance of a marathon. The goal is to successfully sprint out of the gates during the initial response, providing necessary services and supplies. But recovery is realized in years, not months.

Joplin City Manager Sam Anselm said, “Knowing the people in your communities, what their capabilities are, is gonna be key in terms of shortening that marathon time, I think.”

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.