The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 4, 2013

Carl Junction holds memorial to remember 2003 tornado

By Ryan Richardson
Globe Staff Writer

CARL JUNCTION, Mo. — Dozens of residents came together at the Carl Junction Community Center on Saturday, the 10th anniversary of the May 4, 2003, tornado that tore through the town.

Though lives were lost in the storm, many took time at Saturday’s event to reflect on the city’s growth following the disaster. Carl Junction Mayor Mike Moss said that Saturday reminded him of the good that came for the city in the weeks that followed.

“We wanted to give today the respect that was due,” Moss said. “We remember the loss, but we remember people being strong and helping each other out. We showed what kind of city we were and what we wanted to become.”

The F-3 tornado damaged 500 homes and many city and school buildings. It was one of several tornadoes spawned that Sunday in the Four-State Area. Another hit Pierce City and a third hit Franklin, Kan., and then Stockton, Mo.

The Carl Junction tornado first touched down in Cherokee County, Kan., before hitting the community of Smithfield near the state line and then Carl Junction. It killed one person in Cherokee County, two others near the state line and an elderly couple just west of Carl Junction.

Instead of a population decline, which sometimes follows disasters, Carl Junction saw its population grow 27 percent over the next decade.

“You look at what we did afterward and you realize that we grew quickly,” Moss said. “You don’t see constant reminders of a terrible day; you see the growth that happened following it.”

Many amateur photographers were able to capture images of the storm, and many of those pictures lined the walls inside the community center on Saturday.

Carl Junction Chamber of Commerce Director Gary Stubblefield showed an aerial map of the city that was used in the storm’s aftermath. It shows many of the homes that had been damaged.

“Almost every home on that map is marked,” Stubblefield said. “Some of it was light damage like roofs and siding while other homes were gone, but it shows that there weren’t many places that escaped undamaged.”

Calvin Churchwell, of Carl Junction, inspected the map pointing out the path that the storm traveled through the city. Churchwell’s fingers stopped near his home at 402 N. Broadway.

“We lost half of our house that day, and we were living in the other half while we were rebuilding,” Churchwell said. “We were basically camping in our own house.”

Churchwell pointed out that over the past decade, he saw more good than bad come out of that day.

“Though the damage was widespread, we didn’t lose hundreds of people. We realized quickly that we were lucky,” Churchwell said. “We lost stuff, we lost buildings, but we didn’t lose things that we couldn’t eventually replace.”

Tracie Skaggs spoke on behalf of the school district.

“We looked at the damage and it was heavy, but you saw teachers going in to try and save projects that their kids were working on and trying to get their belongings back to them,” Skaggs said. “It became evident that the people were going to get each other to come through.”

For Skaggs, that bond never left the city.

“We pulled each other through with a lot of help from other cities around us,” Skaggs said. “We’re strong and we will step up for others when this happens to them.”