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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Joplin, Missouri........4 Years Later

One of the more tragic disasters of recent times was the devastating tornado that hit the nearby town of Joplin, Missouri some 4 years ago. Since we're relatively close, we decided to ride to Joplin to learn more about that tragic event and see how the area has recovered. This story is so powerful and inspirational that I feel ill equipped to write about it, but will give it my best shot.
         It was May 22, 2011 when a category 5 tornado touched down in Joplin and left a path of death and destruction that was one mile wide and six miles long. This twister was to be the nation's deadliest tornado in 60 years. The funnel cloud was only on the ground for 38 minutes, but caused more destruction than one can imagine. There were 166 lives lost that day with countless injuries suffered by many others. The storm was so strong, the St. John's Hospital was lifted four inches off its' foundation and suffered such damages that the remains had to be demolished. There are countless stories about close calls including  Joplin High School that planned to have their graduation ceremonies at the school that Sunday, but decided to move it to a larger facility further away. That high school was demolished by the tornado at about the time the ceremonies would have been held and who can imagine how many more lives would have been lost there if it hadn't been moved. What made this trip more personal is when Crickett and I went to the site where the hospital used to stand, we encountered two delightful young ladies that were living in the area when the tornado touched down. These ladies were so friendly and seemed to enjoy sharing their memories with us of that terrible day. They told of many events affecting a lot of their families and friends. Their stories actually gave us chill bumps to hear about it first hand. I can't begin to imagine the grief and despair  this community endured, but through it all, have come back closer and stronger with God's help. They said virtually all the buildings we could see standing today have been rebuilt from the original ones, that were leveled.  The hospital decided to rebuild in a different location and to convert the original property into an Open Air Chapel honoring the lives and memories of all the people lost on that day. The structure that has been built is basically a roof with open walls and has a beautiful cross in the center of the roof. It's intended to be an area for reflection and meditation. The original cross with praying hands that once stood in front of the hospital has been erected on the property just below the meditation area. Cunningham Park is directly across the road from the former hospital site and was also in the direct path of the tornado. Today, it has been rebuilt and contains many plaques and memorials honoring not only the victims, but the untold heroes and supporters to help recover from that dreadful day. There was a beautiful sunset with the sounds of children playing in the park while there, which made it more special. This was truly a sobering day and one that we'll always remember.

          If you cannot read the print on the plaques, you can click on the picture to enlarge it and then click on the X in the upper right hand corner to return to the blog.  

Meet our newly found friends, Thelma Brazenly on the left and Shirley Giles on the right. These ladies were a delight to meet and hear their descriptions of that terrible day. Thelma told us her daughter and family narrowly escaped death by fleeing to the basement of their home that was totally destroyed.

Thelma, Shirley and Crickett

Statue in front of chapel with the inscription "St. John of God who loved those who suffered".

Large cross held by praying hands that was originally in front of hospital. There were 161 trees planted in the park, one for each life that was lost.

Beautiful Open Air Chapel

The remaining photos were taken across the road from the hospital site at Cunningham Park.  The descriptions of the butterflies protecting the children from the storm gave us chill bumps. The stories of the butterflies or angels made such an impact on the area that a section of the memorial is named the Butterfly Garden.  

All these plaques are placed under the frame of a structure resembling a house. It's meant to symbolize the acceptance of a lost home.

All these plaques are worth your time to read. They are very inspirational.

Mosaic Tile design in center of butterfly garden.

Pool where original children's playground once stood. It's built to honor the lives of the children lost in the storm.

New playground is visible in top left with butterfly garden and memorials in top right of photo.

Sunset over Wal Mart

The end to a very special day.


  1. You were right; I did indeed enjoy this post. There was so much I didn't know about the horror in Joplin. Thanks for a very readable and informative piece!

  2. From Betty: WOW!! What an unforgettable day for you and Cricket and what a read for me! Touching. You told the story well with words and pictures. I did read each of the plaques. The city has done the memorials very well.