Joplin: One Year Later

Residents of Joplin rebuilding after the storm. Courtesy of www.stlsalvationarmy.org

One year ago today, Joplin, MO homes and businesses were leveled within a matter of minutes when the town suffered a direct hit by a massive EF5 tornado with wind speeds over 200 mph. The storm killed 161 people and left most residents displaced and homeless. Among other relief organizations and emergency responders, The Salvation Army was there providing food, beverages, shelter and material donations such as clothes, toiletries and bedding, thanks to an outpouring of compassion by American donors. A year later, The Salvation Army continues to partner with other organizations to help survivors get back on their feet again. New construction, life and hope are in the Joplin air.

Today, we’ll be featuring blog posts from Danni Eickenhorst, Communications Specialist from The Salvation Army in St. Louis. She’s in Joplin today taking part in the one year anniversary festivities and the Day of Unity event. She will also be live tweeting her pictures from the day’s events. To follow her pictures on Twitter, click here. To visit The Salvation Army, St. Louis’ blog, please visit http://salvationarmystlouis.wordpress.com/

****

Nearly one year after a historic tornado destroyed more than 7,500 homes and 500 businesses, Joplin residents are still finding their way back to normal.

“The mess has been cleaned up,” says David Crossley, manager of The Salvation Army’s homeless shelter in Joplin. “The debris is gone. You see rebuilding going on around town, and people are hopeful.”

Crossley, a 15-year employee of The Salvation Army lost his home when it was badly damaged in the storm. Emerging from a closet where they’d taken shelter, the Crossley family found their roof partially gone, their windows broken, live power lines on their car and no immediate hope for assistance. In the days following the storm, he and his family slept at The Salvation Army Community and Worship Center, at friends’ houses and at a motel.

Today, thanks to the aid of The Salvation Army, his church, family members and friends, Crossley and his family are hopeful their lives will return back to normal.

“We just poured the foundation on a home we are building. We hope to move into it in early June,” he reports.

As Crossley reflects on the long year his family has endured, he is struck by the progress they’ve made. “I was just thinking the other day, our wedding anniversary is coming up and last year we were living in a motel room with no idea where we were going to wind up. Now, we’re living in a comfortable duplex and building a home of our own. In just one year, we’ve lost nearly everything we had, and now we’re almost whole again.”

The Crossleys stand on their newly poured foundation, anticipating the day when they can move into their new home. Courtesy of stlsalvationarmy.org

Just two months after the epic storm, Lieutenants James and Jamie Curry became officers in Joplin. Lieutenant Jamie reflects on life in her new hometown, “Any other place I have ever lived, I’ve never had the experience of stepping out my front door and seeing something different than the day before. Almost an entire year has passed since the tornado, but it still seems like last week to the residents here. While there are significant changes to the landscape as buildings are rebuilt, the emotional toll is still ever present.”

The Currys and their team have been hard at work as part of the Long Term Recovery Committee, a consortium of nonprofits and service agencies working to handle long-term survivor case management. “We have the benefit of seeing first hand how God can work, even in a disaster. There are success stories that come through our doors each day, and when these individuals get helped, it renews their desire to help others.”

Crossley says that in some ways that storm has been a blessing. “It brought my family closer, and I think it brought many of us in the community closer. Whenever we had a need, The Salvation Army or one of its partners was there to meet it. God’s love has been manifested in so many ways in these days of recovery, and I am so grateful.”

Lt. Curry observes, “There is a greater sense of community among the people of Joplin. As is the case in many catastrophic events, everyone is affected in one form or another which creates in itself a genuine sense of comradeship. Joplin is no different.”

Dana Ross, Case Manager for The Salvation Army Joplin Relief Center, says “We have formed some amazing partnerships. We are one of the primary social service providers for this event, and through these partnerships we can connect our clients with just about anything they need.”

The Salvation Army was recently awarded a contract with Missouri that will allow it to continue long-term case management with residents through May 2013. In the coming weeks, long-term plans will be released detailing The Salvation Army’s strategy for long-term recovery and investment in Joplin.

-Danni Eickenhorst, Midland Division