The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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April 10, 2013

Area communities planning events to mark anniversary of 2003 tornadoes

CARL JUNCTION, Mo. — Carl Junction is planning a ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of the May 4, 2003, tornado that tore through the city. Similar events are planned in Franklin, Kan., and Pierce City, which also were hit by tornadoes that night.

The F-3 tornado that hit Carl Junction touched down in Cherokee County, Kan., before moving through the community of Smithfield and then Carl Junction. It killed one person in Cherokee County, two others near the state lane and a couple just west of Carl Junction.

More than 30 percent of the buildings in Carl Junction were damaged, including $6.5 million in damage to the schools.

“I still get emotional when I think about it,” school Superintendent Phil Cook said Wednesday. “But then I realize how many relationships were forged at the time and how we pulled together, both as a district and as a community. I told my staff that the schools aren’t bricks and mortar, they are the people inside them. That’s what sticks with me.”

City officials are planning a small ceremony at 6 p.m. Saturday, May 4, outside the community center at 303 N. Main St., with a moment of silence and prayer followed by a reception inside. Chamber of Commerce Director Gary Stubblefield said the city is taking the opportunity to reflect on its growth in the aftermath of the tornado.

“We want to keep it small and acknowledge how far we have come since then,” Stubblefield said. “You want to recognize the loss, but also see the community pride that grew out of that time. It is tough to say where we would be if something like that hadn’t happened. It provided the city an opportunity to show us what we are all about. Carl Junction citizens embraced that feeling and never let go.”

Amy Skiles survived the tornado with her family in their home at 301 Elliott Ave. When she, her husband and two children emerged from an interior closet, they found that their porch was gone, along with part of their roof and kitchen. It would be a month before they stayed in their house again.

Skiles said the event helped define what the city has come to be.

“There was a motto that came about after that day,” she said. “Someone said, ‘We were neighbors, now we are family.’ It was true. We rebuilt stronger. We moved on.”

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