**This too I did not write, Heather Nail Roy did but it’s so outstanding! I don’t really want to remember that tornado, but the reality of it, is that it hit this area. So I’m putting this in my blog so this too, I always remember**
It’s a common question in Joplin these days; were you affected by the Tornado? For 3 weeks now I have been telling everyone no, I wasn’t affected. I still have my house. I still have my clothes, the picutres hanging on my walls, the thousand toys that… my kids leave strewn all over the floor. I still have my marriage license, my kitchen plates, and my dogs. No one in my family died, and we didn’t lose our jobs. But I’ve been lying to everyone. My own guilt, or shame, or pride maybe…I don’t know…has kept me from admitting that I WAS AFFECTED in more profound ways than losing personal posessions. First I felt guilty because the F5 tornado that ripped up 30% of the town I’ve lived in for more than 40 years, missed my house by 3 blocks. So many people lost so much, and not so much as a shingle was damaged on my house. I felt guilty because I got to hold my kids that night and tell them I loved them and tuck them in bed. I got to kiss my husband and hold his hand and feel comfort that he was there. I listened to story after story of survival and was in awe of the strength of those close to me that lived through this nightmare. I went to work and warmed a chair for a whole week, consumed with reading as much as I could about the rebuilding efforts that have been ongoing since immediately after the storm. I couldn’t take my eyes off the radar tracking the storms that continued to plague Joplin in the days immediately following the tornado. It took me about a week to actually venture into the disaster zone. I drove south on Rangeline to 32nd street, then west to Maiden Lane. I turned and drove to 26th street where Cunningham park is…was. My oldest daughter was married in the pavillion that used to sit within easy sight of St. John’s hospital. It’s all gone.
Unrecognizable. I turned east on 26th street and drove through what I can only remember as utter annhilation. I went to Irving Elementary in the 3rd grade…it’s gone. I do remember seeing the cross at St. Mary’s still standing and thinking that only God is strong in the aftermath of this storm. I drove to Main street and turned north and headed to 20th. Still in shock, I checked out business after business that wasn’t there anymore. I could see the instruments in Glory Day’s Music that would never be played…Dudes donuts…and the remains of a used furniture store. Once I turned onto 20th street headed east I was on auto pilot. Franklin Tech was GONE. I was amazed at the sight of nothing…then I saw Parkwood. I know it’s Joplin High, but to me it will always be Parkwood…and I just cried. I didn’t stop crying for half an hour. I stopped in the parking lot where I used to sit in the morning before going to class and bawled like a baby. When I could see again I got back in my car and headed out to Duquesne. I had heard that Duquesne had been in the path of the monster that tore up my town, but I had no idea at the severity of the destruction. The tornado did not stop at Rangeline after it decimated Home Depot and Pepsi and Wal-Mart. It continued east for more than 3 miles. I was in a daze as I drove to what used to be my childhood home at 4550 East 25th Street. I could see the remains of homes that my friends used to live in. The neighborhood that held so many wonderful memories was now a desolate wasteland of broken trees, shattered houses, and peoples lives scattered in the streets. I pulled into the driveway of the home I grew up in and got out of my van. I stood in utter horror as I took in the sight. I cried again. This time I was wracked with heaving sobs from the deepest parts of my soul. But then again, no one as around to see me at my weakest moment. Remember? I was not affected. I walked around in the rubble of my childhood remembering where that old green piano had once sat. There was once a blue chair that sat by the window and in the mornings while I waited for the bus I would cover the heater vent with a blanket so that the air would warm my frozen toes. The den that Daddy and Grandpa Bender built out of a 2 car garage was completely gone. The hearth where the free-standing fireplace once sat was still there…well part of it. The slab that sat on top of the frame was missing…nowhere in the wreckage. I walked through the rubble, noticing along the way a Children’s Bible that seemed to have no damage to it whatsoever. It was dry, and sitting on top of some sheetrock. Odd I thought. I climbed down off the foundation into the back yard. The tree where Daddy would nail rabbits up so he could skin them was gone. I walked over to the slab where a shed used to sit. There, in the concrete slab that we helped Daddy pour, was my name and the date Aug 18, 1977. And I cried again. It’s been over 3 weeks now since life as we knew it ended. I can’t sleep. I am scared at the slightest mention of a severe storm. I’ve been moody, on edge, and angry. I refuse to drive into “that area” because I don’t want to face what has now become our reality. I know that rebuilding is taking place…but it won’t be like it was. Joplin has always had a familiar feel…landmarks if you will. Those are gone. No longer can you say “turn left at Dillons” or “it’s the road behind Hampshire Terrace”. Those places no longer exist. Dillons will rebuild, but it won’t look the same. I called Papa Johns the other day and was irritated because they weren’t answering! Then I was mad at myself for not remembering that they weren’t there anymore. My 4 year old daughter painted a picture at school the other day…of a tornado with a rainbow in the middle of it. This event is ingrained in every person who has ties to this town…whether they were “in” the tornado or not. So, this is me admitting that I was affected. We all were. I have been avoiding dealing with the pain and loss that I feel because so many others lost so much more, and my loss in comparison seemed like nothing. But it’s still something. To me, it’s still something. The nightmares that wake me in the night soaking with sweat and streaming tears will disappear one day…I hope. The town will rebuild. We’ll get new schools, new homes, new businesses…and I’ll still be here. Joplin in my home, and new or old…I’m here for the long haul. But its time that we admit that we were all affected. I know that I can’t be the only person in town that’s been putting off the inevitable…i can’t be the only person feeling the way I feel. But we can’t all break down at once. Those that lost everything need us…so let’s lean on each other for support…let me cry on your shoulder and i’ll let you cry on mine. Then together we can get on with the business of getting on with our lives… It’s amazing to me that the storm that tore through our lives and ripped us apart is the one thing, that after all, has brought us all together…..See MoreBy: Heather Nail Roy