Joplin Tornado Survivor: 'There Is A New Energy Here'

Tuesday, May 22nd 2012, 6:02 pm
By: Craig Day

Missouri is known as the Show Me state, and people in Joplin have really shown their character and ability to overcome adversity in the past year.

Many are quick to point out they are not tornado victims, they are tornado survivors.

In Joplin's' Murphysburg historic district, there aren't any signs of the destruction and heartache an EF-5 tornado caused a year ago. But, beyond the tree lined streets, there is still a town working to recover.

It's a staggering task. More than 7,000 homes and businesses damaged, or destroyed; $1.9 billion in insurance claims, but also tons of perspective.

"We know that with any kind of loss, death, it's always a reminder that life is short, so appreciate what you have now," Ann Leach, tornado survivor, said.

Joplin Tornado Timeline

Among the devastation, Emergency Management Director Keith Stammer says he also saw something amazing happen in Joplin in the past year.

"It reinforced my belief in the human spirit," Stammer said.

Neighbors helped neighbors. More than 126,000 people have volunteered, like this Presbyterian disaster relief team from Michigan.

"When you see that type of devastation, you're heart just goes out to a people and you know you have to be there," volunteer Frank Palazzolo said.

Volunteers have donated more than 775,000 hours of service -- the equivalent of 82 years worth of work at a 24/7 pace.

Stammer calls it phenomenal.

"I think we've seen the best of people," he said.

There is still work to be done, like at the old high school. At one point, 200 trucks a day hauled debris away for week after week.

At the same time, people picked up the pieces of their lives, like Ann Leach. Her walls collapsed over the top of her.

Even for a trained grief counselor, recovery has been tough emotionally, but what she's seen since the powerful tornado, is equally as powerful.

"The resiliency, the compassion, the understanding, the excitement and energy for the future, and the cooperative spirit," Leach said.

Since surviving the storm, Leach has gone on to buy her first house. It's one in that historic Murphysburg district. She's excited about history being made right now.

"There is a new energy here," she said. "I think people are excited about what rebuilding can mean."

05/22/2012 Related Story: Hundreds Walk Through The Hardest Hit Areas Of Joplin