Heart, Soul, and Rough Edges — A Gypsy Journey of Words and Wonder

Joplin, MO, Six Months Later

what the wind destroyed
the town cleared to rebuild as
Mother Nature smiled 

Six months ago, “the tornado,” as it’s referred to by residents, hit Joplin, MO. My cousin and her extended family were there.

One of her sons and his family were in Wal-Mart when the roof blew away; they were saved by overturned shelving, and dug out with scrapes and bruises.

Her brother-in-law and his three kids couldn’t get to a storm shelter, and sought refuge in a convenience store when the windows blew out. All fifteen people got into the cooler, which was then crushed down to a height of three feet. Layered like sardines, they got out alive.

Her grandson, his mother and step-father were home when it hit. They put a football helmet on the boy, put him in the bathtub, Mom next, hugging him, then step-dad threw a mattress over her and climbed on top. The mattress and dad were sucked out when the house blew away. He survived with a badly mangled arm that required emergency surgery. Grandson’s helmet was shattered when the wooden toilet seat ripped off and hit him in the head. Mom was injured, but all survived.

St. John’s hospital, where my cousin worked for over thirty years, was blown off its foundation. And this is just the top layer of what happened to one person’s family. My cousin had thirty-plus people staying in her storm cellar that week.

The horror and chaos of the time brought out the very best in open hearts, minds, and wallets from around the world. The next day, people  brought out grills and fixed food — whatever was available, for whoever needed it. Veterinarians provided free boarding for pets. Churches, as expected, set up shelters, babysitting, and food. Trucks began arriving from all over the country, and kept coming for weeks. People dug in and began doing what they could wherever it was needed.

Fast forward to this week, the six month anniversary.

Extreme Makeover Home Edition built 6 homes in town — one going to my cousin’s grandson and his family. The show will air in January 2012.

Habitat for Humanity built 10 homes; families got the keys to them last week.  Businesses are coming back, slowly, but surely.

The city council last week approved plans for a brand new state-of-the-art replacement hospital. Ground breaking is Jan., 2012 with completion planned for Jan., 2014.

Throughout all of this my extended family displayed grace, courage, resilience, and an abiding faith in themselves, their religion, their town, and their future. I’m awed by them, and my heart has been singing poetry ever since I got this update.

Perhaps this is a psalm of thanksgiving, crudely writ, but from the heart. There are too many hearts here, I know, but this story is about many, many hearts.

Where is the poetry in sorrow and destruction?
In the hurting heart, as always.
Where is the joy in the aftermath?
In that same heart, as healing grabs an edge.

How does it work, this healing?
With loving actions to repair the mosaic shards.
Will it ever be the same?
No, fractures form a stronger bond.
And then?
We give thanks, and promise to love even more.

How will I know?
Shhh. Your heart beats the answer.


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2 thoughts on “Joplin, MO, Six Months Later

  1. Lin Neiswender on said:

    Wow Michele, a powerful story and a great poem!

  2. An incredible story of survival and community. Thank you for sharing! Your poem is a beautiful tribute.

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