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The Sorrow in Joplin

A look at the aftermath in Joplin, Mo.
A look at how dealerships and community members came together after one of the most devistating tornatos to hit this country wiped away Joplin, Mo. And how they're doing now.

It’s been nearly eight weeks since the devastation of an EF-5 tornado that roared through Joplin, Mo. As of now, there are 158 casualties to the storm and nearly 10,000 properties that were severally damaged or destroyed with 5,000 of them being residential properties. Eyewitnesses say that while there has been a lot of debris removed, it still looks like a bomb exploded. The devastation is unimaginable. Pictures can’t come close to capturing the extent of it.  

This past Fourth of July, as the rest of the nation celebrated our independence, Joplin was forced to change their plans. But the city’s officials called for just one day of relief from the disaster. Beth Peacock, the events manager for the city’s parks told SLTToday.com out of St. Louis, “We want to have one day without thinking about it,” no American Red Cross booths, no reference to those lost that fateful May evening, no salespeople for tornado protect protects, just one day. “Tuesday’s going to be here soon enough.”

And that Tuesday, as the sun rose among the now tidy disaster, the clean-up once again began. It’s a good thing too, according to SLTToday.com, “City officials are nagging everyone to work as quickly as possible, in part to capitalize on the federal government’s promise to pay for 90 percent of debris remove, up to August 7.”

The heartbreak is inconceivable. A city of 50,000 has been completely stripped of their familiarity; one-third of it is damaged or just simply gone. However, the recovery is continuing, emotionally and physically. According to The Joplin Globe on July 6, Mayor Mike Woolston ordered the flags (that had been flying half-staff since May 27 in honor of those that passed with the storm) to once again fly high. “There is a time for mourning, and a time to move on to take care of the living,” The Globe reports. “Raising the flag means we are ready now to take up the fight ahead of us, knowing that the victories in the aftermath of the tornado at best will be bittersweet.”

They, without hesitation, began serving their city on a night that will forever more define the new roots of Joplin.

Blazing the trail for an arrival to a new normalcy, The Joplin Globe was back to work immediately, publishing the first paper just days after the storm. Another admirable business that wasted no time getting back to work was Matt & Terry’s Quality Auto Sales, although, their job descriptions, at least for the duration of the foreseeable future, transformed within a mere 32 minutes. They no longer just sold quality used vehicles; they were suddenly forced into the forefront of raising the community back in the shadows of its former self. They helped with recovery and brought vehicles in from another lot, just to help. In the June 3 Joplin Auto Magazine, they published, “We are here to help anyway we can. We have brought out inventory up from out Grandby lot to better serve the Joplin Residents. Please call [name] and let him know what we can do.” Turn the page and they continue, “Matt & Terry would like to say ‘Thank You’ to all the Volunteers that have come to the area to help this great city. We are here with the same low prices that you have come to know us for. Please call us today and let us know what we can do to help you get back on the road.” Take into consideration, that their dealership was destroyed. Let it be reiterated that their inventory had to be shipped in from a surrounding lot. And they are far from being alone.

Other dealerships had employees from the surrounding towns fighting their way into the city driving down familiar roads without knowing where they were. According to the Globe on May 27, Duce Lett, an employee of Frank Fletcher Toyota in Joplin, and his wife rushed into town to check on his lot’s well being, but were unable to reach it by truck; they had to drive in on a four-wheeler. It wasn’t until he was almost to the dealership before he realized where he was. It was at that point that he realized that this storm was much bigger then making sure the cars were ok. “It wasn’t until we got into the rubble that it was like, ‘Who cares how bad the cars are?’” he said. “It took about two minutes to realize that the store was the least important thing right now.” The couple hopped back on their four-wheeler after a brief stop at the dealership, and began in their own rescue efforts. They found vehicles lined along Main Street loaded with injured and the dead. He spent the night at the hospital helping in any way he could.

It’s dealerships, employees and community resources like these that prove Joplin will be okay. With the help and support of volunteers the city has come together. They, without hesitation, began serving their city on a night that will forever more define the new roots of Joplin. Although they’re a long way from normalcy, day-by-day they stand together, stronger than ever.