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2 Years Later: Joplin Tornado Victims Remembered

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Joplin's official anniversary ceremony will be held in historic Cunningham Park on Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Joplin's official anniversary ceremony will be held in historic Cunningham Park on Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Two years ago -- on May 22, 2011 -- the city of Joplin was devastated by an EF5 tornado.

The high school was obliterated. A hospital was crushed. Homes were flattened.

People died -- 161 to be exact.

Joplin Tornado Interactive Timeline

As citizens still are trying to restore a beloved city that was stripped of lives and architectural charms in 2011, they are responding to this week's tornadoes in Oklahoma with hearts of beauty.

With their own backyard destruction fresh in their minds, Joplin's survivors are viewing up-close images that are all too familiar. 

But it hasn't dampened their spirits or will to give back.

Many Joplin victims have traveled to central Oklahoma this week, providing help because they were once offered an outstretched hand. Trucks have convoyed up and down Interstate 44, carrying water and food and Missourians with the volunteer spirit.

Joplin also sent more than a dozen public safety officials to assist the relief efforts and to teach what they learned from their own disaster.

"We remember the amount of assistance that we received following the tornado two years ago, and we want to help others as they helped us," Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr said in a statement. "We know too well what [Oklahoma] is facing, and we feel an obligation to serve them as they have served us."

May 2013 Oklahoma Tornado Outbreak Full Coverage

Amid their efforts to assist their neighbors, they will pause to reflect on a dark day in their own history.

Joplin's official anniversary ceremony will be held in historic Cunningham Park on Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

After her tour of Oklahoma City-area damage, United States Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano will be in southwest Missouri to deliver the keynote address during the "Resilience, Resolve and Realization" ceremony.

The gathering across the border provides a glimpse into grit that never wavered and serves as a light-filled message to those in central Oklahoma: The Heartland's spirit cannot, will not be buried under debris.

A poignant editorial that printed in the Joplin Globe this week demonstrates the two states' shared tears and hope of recovery.

"As we look back today," it says, "we would ask you to remember our day of pain, then respond to those in [Oklahoma] who are living theirs."

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