The Tornado that Destroyed My Hometown – Joplin, Missouri

Never in my life have I felt like I had a hometown. I was born in southern Missouri in a little town where I lived only until I was five months old. My family then moved around the state every several years until I was midway through my teens, at which time we headed south for Texas. When I reached adulthood I settled down for a while in a couple more states around the U.S., finally hitting on Connecticut as the spot where I feel most at home in the U.S.

I have never felt a true allegiance to the town in which I spent so much of my formative years. Until now.

Until a little internet headline I spotted on Monday, May 23rd, caught a small corner of my attention, a headline about a tornado that had touched down in Joplin, Missouri. This is the town where I was born, where I lived out the first five months of my life and where I continued to spend several weeks each year visiting relatives until my family left the state when I was 16.

Joplin Missouri before the tornado

I didn’t click on that headline. I know that Joplin, along with the rest of Missouri, is in what we called Tornado Alley, a large swath of land where tornados are somewhat commonplace. The governments and emergency services in Tornado Alley, along with its tornado-saavy populations, are well equipped to handle tornado watches, warnings and the occasional touchdown of an actual twister. Most of the time.

Tornado on its way to Joplin

I began the following morning as I always do at my temporary home here in Tiberias, Israel, by perusing the on-line editions of a dozen or so Middle Eastern newspapers in search of positive, upbeat regional news for me to post on Traveling the Middle East. This morning, in addition to headlines relating to their own woes, the home pages of newspapers across the Mid East, from Saudi Arabia’s Arab News to the Kuwait Times to Lebanon News and Egypt Daily News, held headlines and images of the tornado in a little Midwestern town all the way across the world. My town.

After photo of the tornado in Joplin, Missouri

Now I realized that this was not the average Tornado Alley twister. This was a catastrophe so massive that it had captured the international spotlight. It has been ranked as the deadliest tornado since modern record keeping began in 1950. It was six miles wide, with winds of an unfathomable 200 miles per hours. The death toll is already 123, and appoximately 1,500 people are still missing. As the depth of the devastation seeped slowly into my psyche, so did memories of Joplin before the tornado. And for the first time in my life, I felt really connected to the town in which my life began. Joplin, Missouri is my hometown.

Tornado destroys Joplin, Missouri

I have one relative, a cousin, remaining in Joplin, and he is alive. But he along with the 50,000 people of Joplin are devastated and in desperate need of help. No longer do they have the privilege of waking up in the morning, making a pot of coffee, taking a shower, getting dressed, feeding their children breakfast, putting them on the school bus, then walking into the garage, climbing into their car, driving off to work, then returning at the end of the day to a warm, safe, dry and comfortable night. Instead, with no roofs over their heads they’re still fighting off storms that continue to pummel them, searching for missing loved throughout the day on into the night. Normal life has ceased in Joplin, Missouri, with no return on the horizon.

Devastating tornado hits Joplin, Missouri

Please keep the people of Joplin in your thoughts and prayers and spread the message that this once cozy, peaceful Midwestern town has been destroyed and its people need help. One way to bring attention to the plight of these people is by spreading the word of the devastation around Facebook. You can do this by liking Joplin, Mo Tornado Recovery on Facebook, then in the left column clicking Events. Then click Ten Million United for Joplin, click I’m Attending on the upper right, then on the left hand side spread the word to your friends by clicking Select Guest to Invite. You can also make donations to the people of Joplin through United Way on this page. It promises that “These funds will be distributed with ZERO overhead with 100% committed to Joplin relief and recovery efforts.” Or you can go directly to the United Way site itself at in order to donate.

I pray that the people of Joplin fully recover from this, but I don’t think they will ever be the same.

Photos from Google Images

10 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Giulia says:

    Terribly sorry to hear these news. I had no idea, I am not even checking the news since I left Egypt.
    I joined the FB cause, spread the word and hope Joplin’s reconstruction will start soon. A virtual hug and I hope the people you know are all safe.
    Giulia recently posted..When you fall in love in Egypt and you’re a foreignerMy Profile

  2. Sabina says:

    Oh, Giulia, thank you so much!!!

  3. Sebastian says:

    It is a terrible story. Nature this year has been really devastating. I was in Nicaragua last month at the finnish embassy when an earthquake of 5.9 hit us. I instantly had to think of NZ and Japan early this year.

    Natural disasters already caused more damaged than budgeted from the reinsurance company’s for this year.

    I hope that your cousin and of course everyone else in Joplin can return to “normal” life soon.
    Sebastian recently posted..Working- Studying &amp Traveling with an iPadMy Profile

  4. Claire says:

    Thanks for sharing, Sabina. So glad to hear that your cousin is OK. It is often difficult for those of us who don’t live in those areas or don’t have families there, to personalize disasters such as these. Posts like these help bring names and stories to tragedies far removed from our current locations.
    Claire recently posted..On How Marriage is Just Like TravelingMy Profile

  5. Steve says:

    Thanks for sharing this. There’s something about hearing someone attached to the place and about their concern for the people there that really makes a story like this more real.

    It was such a terrible disaster that all I can feel is sadness for those who have to go through it. I know what it was like to go through a huge disaster. I had to evacuate a city once because it was completely flooded and then parts of downtown started to burn uncontrollably. It was hard to see all the destruction and chaos that resulted when everyone was finally let back into the city.
    Steve recently posted..The Work-Life ParadoxMy Profile

  6. Sabina says:

    Hi Sebastian – I’ve never been in an earthquake. It’s amazing that you could think of NZ and Japan while you were in the midst of your own. I hope the people of Joplin can return to new homes and normal lives very soon too.

  7. Sabina says:

    Claire, I never felt real empathy for tornado and other natural disaster victims either until I learned of this tornado. It really opened my eyes to the damage and suffering things like this can cause people, whose lives change drastically in the space of a couple of minutes.

  8. Sabina says:

    Steve, it took a few days for the reality of what happened to Joplin to sink in because I’m so far away from there now and I haven’t been back since 2002 when my great aunt passed away. It’s probably going to take a long, long, long time for everything to be rebuilt and for the city to look and be normal again. I think if I were to visit it now, it would be quite upsetting.

  9. ListsMania says:

    So sorry about your and your home town loss.. i recently worked on a article related to natural disasters and i can understand now how much destruction that tornado has caused to your town. God bless you
    ListsMania recently posted..Top 10 Most Devastating Natural Disasters EverMy Profile

  10. April says:

    I feel sad when I read this post especially knowing that Joplin, Missouri is a beautiful place to stay in and visit but unfortunate things really happen and I feel bad that this happened in Joplin, Missouri. I know that it will be restored soon.

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