Monday, May 21, 2012

Joplin: One Year Later

One year ago, the Missouri cities of Joplin and Duquesne were changed forever, as an EF-5 tornado carrying winds over 200 miles per hour tore through, killing 161 people and destroying thousands of homes and businesses. For weeks, people dug out, finding what was left of their lives underneath rubble. In the months that followed, we rebuilt. We recovered. We persevered. We overcame.

One year later, this community is not the same. There is a lot of work still to do; for those who lost friends and family in the storm, this anniversary is a painful reminder of the briefness of life and the finality of death. It's something we don't want to dwell on, but we must. There is a lot of pain left to heal. There are a lot of buildings left to rebuild. There is a lot of empty space where there were once homes.

One year later, this community continues to inspire. Help -- and hope -- continues to pour in from all over the world, but the people here leave our helpers in just as much awe as they leave us. They are amazed at how far we've come in the past year. There are many who said we'd still be digging ourselves out; instead, we're holding groundbreakings and commemorations. There are many who said we'd never get the schools open on time. Instead, the class of 2012 started, and graduated, ON TIME. There were many who looked at the devastation and wondered how any hope could be found in the destruction. Instead, we have not only found hope, but faith, unity, and strength in each other and in things that are far bigger than ourselves.

A little over one year ago, my wife and I had just moved to Joplin. We were outsiders in every sense of the word; we knew very few people, kept to ourselves, and had come to Joplin more out of necessity than seeking the community out. Now, we feel a connection to this city and its people. We have shared in the hurt, in the struggle, and in the joy at seeing the progress and restoration taking place. One year later, I can't think of anywhere else to put down my roots than the most courageous city I've ever laid eyes on and had the privilege to call home.

One year ago, we were shaken. One year ago, we were knocked down.

One year later, we're back on our feet. Standing tall, standing together... and as the world watches, we will show you all that we will continue to rebuild, revive, restore, and remain. Stronger than ever.

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