The date is May 22, 2011 in Joplin Missouri.
The day starts out like any other; people get up and go to work, parents care for their children, and pets are fed. Joplin High School has finished their graduation ceremony and several hundred families are driving home, feeling proud. Even as an ominous storm begins approaching the city from the west, the city is calm. It isn’t until the local news anchors realize that what they thought were flashes of lightning coming out of the dark cloud are actually explosions from power lines being snapped like twine from their anchors that panic begins to set in.
That the power lines were snapping was evidence of very high winds- the kind that can form powerful tornadoes. Tragically, such was the case that May. With almost no warning (as is typical with tornadoes) a massive, multiple vortex, EF5 class tornado was shredding the quiet town to pieces with wind speeds in excess of 200mph. It killed 161 people and destroyed $2.8 billion worth of personal property and city infrastructure as it created a scar nearly a mile wide at one point all the way across the town. It was the costliest tornado in U.S. history as well as the seventh most deadly.
In the wake of the devastating destruction, members of the community rallied to get to work rebuilding. Many volunteers were from the Crowder and Drury communities. While we worked to rebuild not only the homes, but also the hearts of those affected, there was one main question on our minds: How do we make sure it’s never this bad again?
An idea began to grow.
Photo via the Kansas City District Flickr
See aerial photographs of Joplin before and after the tornado from The New York Times.