Today is the fifth anniversary of the Joplin tornado. On this date, and day, in 2011, a massive EF5 tornado devastated the communities of Joplin and Duquesne. Considered one of the biggest and deadliest tornadoes in the past 70 years, this storm destroyed a third of my town, injured more than a thousand people and killed 161.
This year, being the five year anniversary, there were many activities and times of both remembrance and celebration. I participated in several of those.
Today I have been in a quiet, reflective mood, somber yet hopeful. I was grateful for the bright sunny day, with no threat of storms. And I was appreciative of the celebrations and memorial service held at Cunningham Park. I attended the wonderful lunch that Operation BBQ Relief provided for hundreds and mingled with others while listening to music provided by Carter Hulsey and Kenny Foster.
I’ve shared in previous posts about my experiences the day of the tornado and about Joplin’s resilience. Rather than sharing my words in this post today, here are pictures that captured the event at Cunningham Park:
The 161 memorial trees planted in Cunningham Park are big enough now to provide shade.
It was good to gather with others at the park today. Good to see people I know and exchange greetings and hugs. I am thankful for all that people offered this week, to honor those who died and to celebrate the spirit of this community.
And, I made the decision not to attend the remembrance service at the park. My own backyard garden was calling to. I sought the peace and sanctuary of that beautiful, peaceful space, to remember on my own.
Watching the movie A Little Chaos recently inspired me to light candles throughout my garden. Tonight, I wanted to do that, create pockets of light, and build a small fire in the fire pit, in honor of those lost in the storm. I didn’t have 161 candles to light. But the 25 or so that I lit were for them.
Here are photos of my quiet time of remembering:
I felt restored after my time in the garden, with its warm candlelight and enchantment, and at peace. Although I feel sorrow around the events of May 22, 2011, the heaviness has gone.
I’ll never forget what happened or the people lost. Nor do I want to. Their lives are part of the fabric of this community, their stories woven with ours, inseparable. The tornado too, is part of us, part of our story. On one seemingly ordinary day, that storm turned our world upside down and revealed who we are, at our core. We are compassionate. We are overcomers. We are strong. We are Joplin Strong.