A Letter from Joplin – Part 1

What follows is the first part of a long note from my sister, who lives in Joplin. Mercifully, her family lives in Leawood, about a quarter of a mile south of the Interstate on which I saw a photo of overturned trucks. I have written previously about my niece’s brother-in-law’s experience in the AT&T Store across the main shopping street (Rangeline). The store was demolished and one of his co-workers was killed by the tornado.

If you are interested in what the eyes of a child saw during the tornado, my sister tells of a four-year old who saw “butterfly people.” You’ll have to hang in until the final installment, though, because that’s where she put it.

Hi All,

I have been thinking a lot about what we have been going through lately and I know you have been concerned about us. You don’t know how much that means to us.

During the 1965 tornado in Crystal Lake, I was in the Methodist Church being confirmed.

A friend of mine did not show up, so we went to her house afterwards. Their garage had blown into the house across the street. Their house had shifted slightly, but enough that they had to totally rebuild. I think 12 people died that day.

On May 22, Denny & I had taken our 10 year old granddaughter, Keaton, golfing in preparation for junior golf at the country club.

Tornado damage to the strip mall where Orange Leaf Yogurt is located in Joplin.

On our way home, she wanted to try out the new yogurt place, so of course, we stopped there.

We knew a storm was on the way, but we were not overly concerned. We went across town on 20th street.

Little did we know that 45 minutes later that street would never look the same.

Also several stores in the same strip mall as the yogurt shop were demolished. The yogurt shop has reopened.

The tornado alarm sounded right after we got back into the car.

Daughter Lissa was meeting us at our house to help with our youngest daughter Kelly’s wedding invites.

Then son-in-law Brandon joined us with grandsons, Fielding & Hobbs and their cousins, Maggie and Carson. They had been at a ball field practicing.

We were all in our basement watching TV about the storm.

Maggie gets very nervous during storms and ended up throwing up on our carpet. (It’s old and not a big deal.)

Then our electricity went out, and we think that’s probably when the tornado hit Joplin.

At that point, I was running up and down the stairs, looking for radios and batteries. (I’m good to go now.)

When we started to hear about damage, I began occupying the kids with stories about how I sunk my dad’s motorboat when I was a kid.

Then Denny would walk by and whisper, “Home Depot is gone.”

On the Joplin High School sign, the "J" has been replaced by an a duct taped "H" and"IN" with an "E." Nearby tree trunks have been carved into eagles, the team mascot.

A few minutes later, he would whisper, “The high school is gone.”

After the rain stopped, Denny took the kids to a neighbor’s yard, where the water rushes through a ditch. The kids like to play there after storms and they came home all wet.

Lissa was able to post on Facebook that we had not been in the tornado’s path and we were safe.

[And I was snapping photos off the TV and emailing them to Lissa.]

The AT&T Store in Joplin.

Brandon became very concerned about his brother, David, who was working at an AT&T cell phone store across from Walmart, which was also destroyed.

He was about ready to go look for him, when he heard that David was OK. It had taken him an hour and a half to get out from the rubble. One co-worker died that day.

More installments for the next five days.

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