Most people from Joplin would remember where they were on the evening of May 22, 2011. I was at my grandparents’ house, watching the news broadcast as the television screen turned crimson, pink, and yellow — hallmarks of an EF5 tornado forming on the radar. There was a strange sort of silence outside, as though all of the birds and cicadas were at attention. Green clouds angrily cast down an eerie light over my grandparents’ pasture, and everything was still.
We watched as the radar became an angry mess of red, and when the weatherman himself went off air to take shelter, we ran to the storm cellar behind the house moments before the funnel touched down. The sound of a tornado has been described as a freight train, grizzly bear, or waterfall — what I heard in the next few minutes was all, but none, of these at the same time.
I was just 12 years old when the Joplin tornado struck. Now, at 22, while I can recall the fear, tragedy, pain and destruction that the storm left in its 22-mile wake, I can also distinctly remember the resilience, strength, and selflessness that so many people from around the Joplin community — and beyond — showed to my town in its time of need.