No community has shown a better resilience after a disaster than the residents of Joplin, which was ravaged by a tornado May 22, 2011. The six-mile area that was damaged by the tornado killed 161 people and injured more than 1,000 people. Its width was about a mile and it destroyed or damaged 8,000 homes, 18,000 vehicles and about 400 businesses.
Joplin is rebuilding and has been helped by an outpouring of contributions and countless types of assistance from Missourians and people from other states. Schools, churches, Mercy hospital, and a wide variety of businesses were destroyed or damaged. Total damage has been estimated at $2.8 billion. Insurance is covering much of the cost and about $500 million in federal and state disaster aid has been forthcoming. The Associated Press reported low-interest loans and local bonds backed by higher taxes are in the financial help mix.
The assistance has not reached the scale of Katrina, which caused considerably more damage over a larger area.
The full story of aid and of the heroism will never be told because there is so much to tell, some of it unknown. But what is known is inspiring. One of the remarkable stories is how the Mercy hospital system helped when its facility was destroyed. It has kept everybody on the payroll, opened a tent facility for ER and other cases within weeks and now has a modular facility up and running at a cost of around $100 million. It will serve until Mercy builds a new hospital, for which it has broken ground. That commitment did much to boost the morale of the people in Joplin. Mercy’s total commitment will amount to around $950 million.
The public school system rebounded after many of its buildings were destroyed. A $62 million bond issue was approved to help repair or rebuild 10 school buildings. City infrastructure also was damaged and had to be replaced or repaired. Through all of this there has been a remarkable spirit of rebounding.
Things will never be the same in Joplin, but the city and its people have demonstrated courage, have a strong conviction of hope and a shining rebirth spirit. Those memories will never die.