Joplin, Missouri – Walk of Unity one year after tornado
On May 22, 2011, an EF-5 tornado ripped through Joplin, MO, leaving a path of destruction and mayhem six miles long and three miles wide. Houses and buildings were leveled. Trees were ripped from the ground, and those left standing were defoliated. Cars, trucks and large objects were moved blocks and turned upside down. Devastation was overwhelming. 161 were victims and thousands were left homeless, yet surviving.
May 22, 2012 — a year later — the citizens of Joplin are on the road to recovery. On the anniversary date, eight members of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) joined 8,000 walkers in the 4-mile “Walk of Unity” tracing the path of the tornado. Planned stops were made at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to watch the raising and placing of the steeple on the church that had been completely rebuilt from the foundation; at the site of the new high school, to participate in the groundbreaking for the school, which is on the same property but in a new location; and finally ending at the completely remodeled Cunningham Park, for a program remembering the victims, celebrating the survivors and thanking the thousands of volunteers who have brought Joplin to the road of recovery.
PDA has been in Joplin from the beginning. Days after the tornado, National Response Team (NRT) members were on hand to show support, offer help, and be ministry of presence. A month later PDA sponsored a Compassion Fatigue Workshop for clergy and church staff. This has been followed by three more workshops for caregivers, school personnel, and professionals involved in recovery. PDA also has been involved in the Long Term Recovery Committee in establishing housing venues for volunteers.
It is amazing to see Joplin today. There is still much rebuilding to do—volunteers are still needed. Trees have been planted and need to grow. Healing is still taking place and will for a long time. But Joplin is a city of HOPE. They will recover, but will never forget.
Submitted by Kathy Morriss, NRT member
Since the tornado, PDA-related hosting sites have housed 679 volunteers on 42 work teams. Volunteers are still needed! Find out more about this and other opportunities around the United States.