Can’t Hold Me Down: A Look at the Rebuilding of Joplin, One Year Later

When you hear the name “Joplin,” perhaps a scratchy-sounding soul icon comes to mind. Perhaps you start humming, “Me and Bobby McGee” or “Mercedes Benz.” However, if you live in the continental United States, there’s a good chance you remember a different Joplin first–one that was leveled by one of history’s worst U.S. funnel clouds on record: Joplin, Missouri.This small, sleepy town was operating the way towns in the Heartland often do at the very end of the month of May, 2011. In fact, a high school graduation ceremony for Joplin’s graduating seniors had been held on the morning of May 22 a short while before the clouds started forming and residents started making haste towards their storm shelters, basements, and respective bathtubs. In an American tragedy, 161 people lost their lives in or as a result of the tornado.

In the time since Joplin was crushed by nature, the tight-knit community that has been through so much immediately pulled together to recharge, recover, and rebuild. The tornado’s wake included hits to the town’s large hospital and its high school, among tens of other residential and commercial buildings. But, in the year plus since the storm hit, residents and, honestly, the entire nation has helped Joplin to get both rebuilt and in working order.

An August 5, 2012 article from the Kansas City Star reported that, “beneath the coats of off-white paint and under the drywall inside Larry and Amy Jump’s new home in Joplin, Mo., are the scrawled names of people who before the storm were strangers. Youth group members from Missouri, Texas and Washington, mission workers from Indiana and Canada and volunteers from a Lee’s Summit Methodist church. They’re all a crucial part of why the Jumps are where they are today, in a home of their own, in a town that’s still working to reclaim what it had before [the] EF5 tornado struck.”

Due to helpers from all over the country, disenfranchised families like the Jumps have been helped back into their former way of life through new construction and a renewed faith in the human spirit. Unfortunately for many Joplin residents, fraudulent would-be contractors have flocked to the town in droves, looking for people of whom to take advantage post-tornado. These contractors, who collect their construction money and flee town or begin a job and fail to finish it, have further complicated the lives of Joplin residents who have already lost their homes in addition to, possibly, their family members and friends. But, fortunately, there have been far more wonderful volunteers who have been genuinely eager to help.

While there have been 132 home repair complaints filed by Joplin residents with the Missouri Attorney General’s office since May 22, 2011, over 100 have already been resolved. In addition to this, more than anything else, America has learned of the resiliency of community and human spirit in the face of great adversity. For Joplin, there’s still an aggregation of work to be done before the town is restored. But, with help from the community–both locally and nationally–they’re on the right track.

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