Recently, my family and I took a road trip from our home in Louisiana to Buchanan, Michigan. On our way there, we passed through the small town of Joplin, Missouri.
On May 22, the city of 48,000 was devastated by a massive tornado. It ripped through Joplin with 166-mile-per-hour winds. And when the storm ended, it left 25 percent of the town damaged in a one-mile-wide, four-miles-long path of destruction.
Months later, Joplin is still recovering. Driving through the city, my family and I saw the scale of destruction first hand. It was an unforgettable experience. While I was in the part of Joplin hit by the tornado, I felt surrounded — stuck, even — in the debris and literally broken homes. The scope of the damage is unimaginable.
Who knew a tornado like this was possible? Writing about the experience of visiting Joplin is very challenging for me. I get very emotional thinking of how a family’s whole life can change in a split second. I took photos when I was in Joplin, but no picture can capture how amazingly large this event was. Damage goes on farther than the human eye can see! There were many, many damaged homes, and I was able to walk through a few.
One house seemed to be a normal family’s home, but there was something special about it. Quite a few items remained. There was a refrigerator in the living room with items like eggs, chocolate syrup, hot sauce, and, believe it or not, an unopened six-pack of Diet Coke! These everyday items looked normal — expect they were covered in dirt and debris. Also in the kitchen, on the counter, were three tubs of peanut butter. The couches in the house were turned upside down, but shoes were completely undamaged.
Joplin has been through more than pictures can show or words can express. Many people survived, and some people even escaped the wrath of the storm. But everyone in Joplin will always remember May 22, 2011 — the day disaster struck their town.
Photo: A truck sits upside down in a house that was destroyed by the May 22 tornado. (Courtesy Tori Feaster)