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May 22, 2013

“Joplin Was Able To Rise From the Ashes”

Joplin High School in Joplin, Mo., after the tornado.

Joplin High School in Joplin, Mo., after the tornado.

At least 161 people are killed and hundreds more injured as a three-quarter-mile-wide tornado hits Joplin, Mo. The tornado is among the deadliest in the nation’s history, destroying nearly a third of the city and damaging about 2,000 buildings.

MaKenzie, a junior at Joplin High School, reflects on how her town was able to recover from such a traumatic event with the help of friends and neighbors.

This piece was originally published May 22, 2012


I can still distinctly remember that gnawing anxiety that spread through my chest on that dreadful night.

The week following the tornado was absolute horror. The weather was ominous, and I was terrified another storm was going to destroy the part of the town that was still standing.

But there wasn’t another tornado and life carried on.

MaKenzie, junior, Joplin High School

I may not have lost my home, but the high school I spent two years growing up in had been destroyed.

I lost an acquaintance from school, but at least my friends and family were alive. I have never felt so genuinely thankful in my entire life until that night.

It’s strange that I still felt grateful even after Joplin had been ripped mercilessly apart. I had lost my town, school, people I knew—but I still had my life. I still had a roof above my head, and the lives of my friends and family tucked into safety. It was hard to stay thankful while everything was going on, of course.

I remember attending a meeting where school-board members discussed the plans for the temporary high school. We were able to secure two locations for the high school, which meant it would be split into two campuses divided by grades. I was upset I wouldn’t be able to be in the same building as my sister who was entering as a freshman, but I was extremely relieved we would have a building to use for school.

My campus was located in an old building inside the mall. The construction workers pooled their resources and heightened their strength and were able to build the temporary school in just 55 days. During those 55 days, Joplin received help from all over the country. Volunteers swarmed into town in waves, buzzing around the city and providing help wherever it was needed.

Our town wouldn’t have been able to recover if it hadn’t have been for those men and women who devoted their time to help a mangled city. Not only has our town been rebuilt, but so has our community. Never before have I witnessed such a strong sense of pride in our town and our school.

Joplin was able to rise from the ashes because of help from everyone. And I am eternally grateful to anyone who made that possible.

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