We’ve still got a long way to go
Yes, we’ve still got a long way to go
Exactly five years ago today, an EF-5 tornado devastated Joplin, Missouri – the city where I grew up and where my mother still lives.
The tornado touched down first on the western edge of Joplin, then cut a swath that was six miles long and 3/4 mile wide through the heart of Joplin. Its winds are believed to have exceeded 200 miles per hour.
The tornado killed 161 people, and destroyed or seriously damaged some 7500 homes, plus many small and large commercial buildings, schools, and churches.
The city recently released a nine-page fact sheet about the destruction caused by the tornado and the status of Joplin’s recovery from the aftereffects of the storm. Here are a few of the facts from that document that caught my attention:
– An astonishing 182,000 volunteers (more than triple the population of Joplin) assisted in the cleanup and rebuilding of the city. Officially, volunteers donated over 1.5 millions hours of service.
– The tornado generated some three million cubic yards of debris, which took the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Missouri National Guard, dozens of contractors, and thousands of volunteers about eleven weeks to remove.
– Insurance companies paid over $1.6 billion in claims: almost a billion dollars for commercial property losses, over half a billion dollars in residential property losses, and over $50 million for damage to automobiles.
– The city has issued over 7000 residential and commercial building permits since the storm, representing over $1.4 billion in total construction value.
– Joplin builders have built 1657 brand-new houses since the tornado hit, which is just short of one new house per day.
– The largest and most significant nonresidential structures destroyed by the tornado (including Joplin High School, St. John’s Hospital, St. Mary’s Church and Elementary School, and Irving Elementary School) have all been replaced.
– Over 9000 people were displaced by the tornado, and some 4500 employees lost their jobs or had their hours cut. Many of those people had to move to neighboring cities and towns to find jobs and housing. But Joplin’s current population (51,000-plus) is slightly higher than it was at the time of the tornado.
– Over 500 businesses were destroyed or severely damaged by the storm. About 90% of those businesses have reopened or are in the process of reopening. In addition, more than 300 new businesses with over 1600 full-time or part-time employees have opened in the last five years.
– Over 1300 pets displaced by the storm were taken to an emergency pet shelter. Over 500 were eventually reunited with their owners, while most of the rest were adopted by new owners.
Of course, facts and figures like these don’t begin to tell the whole story. And while I’ve visited Joplin a dozen times or more since May 2011, I can’t tell you the whole story either – for that, you need to talk to those residents who lived through the tornado and its aftermath.
I think the people of Joplin are much closer to realizing the much-to-be-desired vision of the future that is described in the following lines from the Book of Job than they were when I first quoted those lines in a September 2011 2 or 3 lines post:
You will surely forget your trouble
Recalling it only as waters gone by
Life will be brighter than noonday
And darkness will become like morning
You will be secure, because there is hope
You will look about you and take your rest in safety
You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid
But I don’t think that most of Joplin’s residents are there yet. They will get there sooner or later . . . but I feel like they still have a long way to go.
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Here's “Long Way to Go,” which was released in 1971 on Alice Cooper’s Love It to Death album:
Click below to buy the song from Amazon: