JOPLIN, Mo. —
Friday was a historic day for the residents of south Joplin. Firefighters moved in and took up residence in the new Station No. 4 at the southwest corner of 36th Street and Hearnes Boulevard.
This is a big deal. What this means is that a firetruck will have to travel only a few blocks to get to my neighborhood instead of a few miles. Getting to a fire as quickly as possible can save lives and preserve property. This is where a minute can really matter. A fire can in size every 60 seconds.
This became apparent to me about two years ago when a fire destroyed a house near mine. As soon as the smoke appeared, firefighters were summoned. You could hear the wail of sirens in the distance.
They were coming, but for the people who lost their home, it seemed like an eternity.
I imagine that feeling is true for anyone who watches his or her home burn, no matter how close the fire station is. But I’ll have to side with my neighbors on this one — the fire had tripled in size by the time those trucks arrived.
It was all over but the crying.
The city should be commended not only for building this fire station where it has but building one that is complementary to the neighborhood.
Its traditional design is reminiscent of the fire stations that have served Joplin since its founding.
In tribute to that colorful history, a brass pole from one of Joplin’s original fire stations has been included in its construction.
This fire station should make the people of south Joplin sleep a little better. I know I will.
Alps Discount Liquor and Smokes has reopened at the southwest corner of 26th and Main streets. The store, which was destroyed by the tornado, was being restocked last week and should be ready for its grand opening on New Year’s Eve.
“We wanted to get it open and let people know that we are in business again,” said Bob Patel, manager of the store. “We’ll be in full swing next (this) week.”
The store offers a large selection of popular wines, mixers, beer and spirits. I am not much of a drinker, but I do have some wines and spirits that I Iike to have on hand — for the holidays, of course. I checked the prices of these favorites in this store. They were cheaper across the board.
An incredible story unfolded at this site during the tornado. Two men and a woman, all in their 20s, decided to go storm chasing the day of the tornado. They were just east of Wildwood Ranch when they saw the tornado touch down. They traveled east on West 32nd Street with the tornado in their rear-view mirror. They went north on McClelland Boulevard to 26th Street and turned east. When they reached 26th and Main, they sought shelter in the Alps store.
Once inside, they headed for the store’s cooler but changed their minds and huddled together in a small hallway. The tornado hit seconds later. The store and its cooler were demolished, but the small hallway survived. The woman left her cellphone on during the entire time they were there. She recorded what it was like to hear and experience an EF-5 tornado. When she replayed it for me, all I could do was gasp and shudder. It was the scariest thing I have ever heard.
The opening of the Alps store is one more step in closing the gap created by the tornado on South Main Street. I’m not sure I will live long enough to see that gap close, but I hope so. Welcome back, Alps.