The Joplin Globe
The 2011 tornado that hit Joplin was so big, so off-the-scale monstrous, that we sometimes forget that before that awful Sunday night, there were other awful Sunday nights.
One of the worst was May 4, 2003, when a series of tornadoes caused widespread damage throughout the region. Tornadoes that night left 19 people from Cherokee County, Kan., to Stockton dead and injured 143 others. Thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed.
Yet, drive through some of these areas today and you wouldn’t guess it.
There’s little in Carl Junction to indicate the scale of what happened there, when 30 percent of the town was hit by an F-3, including school and municipal buildings.
Small unincorporated Franklin, Kan., too, shows few of its scars from the F-4. About one-third of its homes and several community buildings were hit.
Of all the victims of that storm, Pierce City still shows the most wounds. It lost many of its historic, turn-of-the-century limestone buildings on Main Street. It still has a few holes that testify to its tornado, but it remains a close-knit, vibrant community.
Universally, the communities hit in 2003 found that they were stronger — and in some ways better — for what had happened.
There is a lesson for us all in that.
Amy Skiles was in her home in Carl Junction that evening. She survived, along with her family and two children, but it was a month before they returned to their own house again.
Skiles has something that perhaps we in Joplin still haven’t had a chance to develop: the perspective of time.
“We rebuilt stronger. We moved on,” she said recently.
So it will be for Joplin.
So it will be the next time, after some other awful Sunday night.