The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 2011 Joplin tornado

May 22, 2013

Federal, state leaders salute Joplin’s recovery

JOPLIN, Mo. — A deadly May twister may have punched a hole in Joplin and Duquesne two years ago, but the resolve to repair it will help other communities stand strong when they face similar disasters.

That was the message of state and national dignitaries to a crowd of about 2,500 who observed the second anniversary of Joplin’s devastating May 22, 2011, storm during a ceremony Wednesday in Cunningham Park.

Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, remembers the devastation and Joplin’s response. Debris a mile wide from 7,500 destroyed residences and more than 500 businesses was cleared in 90 days. Temporary schools to replace those destroyed were put in place for an on-time start that August.

“I remember very well coming here after the tornado hit, and it is astounding how far Joplin has come,” not only building back, but building back better, Napolitano said.

Schools are being rebuilt or remodeled and equipped with community storm shelters so people will have a safe refuge from future storms. A new Mercy Hospital under construction is outfitted in crucial areas with glass windows that can withstand boards hitting them in 250 mph winds. The City Council adopted stricter home construction requirements aimed at making structures stronger against high winds.

Napolitano said she wanted to find a way to recognize those accomplishments of the community as a whole. At the ceremony, she bestowed upon the residents of Joplin and Jane Cage the first Rick Rescorla National Award for Resilience. Cage was recognized for her leadership of the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team, which assembled ideas from the community and city leaders for rebuilding and making a new Joplin with more amenities to advance the quality of life.

“Jane, you and the Joplin community are serving as models for communities across the United States,” the secretary said in presenting a plaque and medal to Cage.

“I think this is really wonderful for the recognition of the work that was done, not just by me, but by everybody,” Cage said.

Both Napolitano and Gov. Jay Nixon said Joplin’s experience will serve as a beacon of recovery.

“Joplin is many things, and right now I believe you are a beacon of hope — a sign that in times of great need, we are not alone; a sign that wounds do heal, though sometimes they still hurt; that life changes, but it goes on,” the governor said. “And as it does, the power of hope lifts our hearts and compels us forward.”

Announcements of two grants that will continue to propel Joplin’s recovery were made at the ceremony.

Matt Erskine, deputy assistant secretary for the federal Economic Development Administration, announced a $20 million grant for the redevelopment of 20th Street, in particular the building of a new Joplin Public Library and movie theater complex at 20th Street and Connecticut Avenue inside the tornado zone.

Erskine said the hope is that the project will be so successful that it will serve as a template for recovery for other cities.

“The nation will look to Joplin as a model for resilience and recovery” as the city’s economic development projects become realities, he said.

After that announcement, David Wallace, chief executive officer of Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, Joplin’s contracted master developer, said the grant will allow the planners to go forward with design and constructions plans for the library project. He said construction likely will start in about six months. The library project is part of a $100 million development that will build a mix of stores, restaurants and loft apartments next to the library, along with a grocery store.

“We are grateful for this grant as it spurs additional redevelopment activities within Joplin and demonstrates what can be accomplished through collaboration among many,” said Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean.

Additionally, Joplin will share a grant of $585,000 with New York to build an Open Spaces, Sacred Places garden for recovery and healing.

Tracy Sooter, associate director of the Hammons School of Architecture at Drury University in Springfield, announced the grant award.

City Manager Mark Rohr said the garden, funded by the TKF Foundation, will be a place where Joplin’s tornado experience can be learned and reflected upon. It will be located at the northeast corner of Cunningham Park, where three houses were destroyed by the storm. The city bought the lots after the tornado.

“Joplin has a story to tell,” Rohr said. “It’s not just the story of the tornado, but the heroic acts our citizens and their neighbors took to help themselves and, more importantly, each other.”

The ceremony culminated with the placement of a wreath of white daisies and purple irises — Joplin’s city flower — at the stone monument in the park dedicated to the 161 people who died as a result of the tornado.

Rohr opened the ceremony with a tribute to those lost, who are represented in the park by 161 trees.

“Their memories are forever entrenched in our hearts,” he said.

Text Only
May 2011 Joplin tornado
  • Local new-home construction catches up to previous pace

    After a slow start early in this fiscal year for Joplin, the construction of new houses has resumed at the pace that existed in fiscal year 2013, when permits for new houses averaged more than 16 per month. Since November, the beginning of Joplin’s fiscal year, permits for 118 houses have been issued for a total cost of $12.8 million. The average value has been about $108,000.

    June 11, 2014

  • 052212 unity walk1_72.jpg SLIDESHOW: One year later, One day of unity, updated Photos from a day of events commemorating the May 22, 2011 tornado anniversary

    May 22, 2012 1 Photo

  • 060314 Farmers rebuild 1_72.jpg Farmers Insurance writes manual based on experience from Joplin disaster recovery

    Joplin’s housing recovery from the 2011 tornado is one for the books. Jeff Dailey, CEO of Farmers Insurance, announced Tuesday that not only will Farmers Insurance stick with Rebuild Joplin to repair and replace the homes left on the local group’s waiting list, but the company also will kick off a similar recovery effort today for the city of Sea Bright, New Jersey, based on a book it has written to expedite disaster recovery that is based on its experience in Joplin.

    June 3, 2014 2 Photos

  • r052214butterflygarden.jpg New park feature opens on tornado anniversary to encourage healing

    Cunningham Park has become an emotional place for Pamela Praytor. The name of her son, Christopher Lucas, is engraved on a monument that stands in the park in memory of the 161 people who were killed in the May 2011 tornado. “Even though I cry when I come, it’s OK,” she said. “It’s part of the healing.”

    May 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • r051214greenbldgs3.jpg Home, business cited as examples of energy efficiency, strength

    Ramona and Charles “Hugh’’ Shields were not the least bit reluctant on Monday to open their new house in the tornado zone to a bunch of strangers who had a lot of questions. “I used to live in a house where I had to wear two pairs of socks in the winter to keep my feet warm — not anymore,’’ said Ramona Shields. “This house is nice and warm in the winter, and nice and cool in the summer.’’

    May 12, 2014 2 Photos

  • Mercy Health System to receive $23 million FEMA grant

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide Mercy Health System of Joplin with $23 million in public assistance funding by the end of the year. The disaster relief was announced Friday by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.

    April 25, 2014

  • Respond With Love flower.jpg Joplin pays it forward with flowers; residents asked to return bulbs ‘fostered’ for other towns

    Suzan Morang’s front yard bloomed brightly last year from a colorful array of bulbs that she will happily pass on to someone else this year. Morang, 1207 Xenia Court, is a participant in America Responds With Love, a national nonprofit organization that distributes bulbs to disaster-stricken cities.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Creator of Joplin-based ‘Dear World’ exhibit features Boston bombing victims in new work

    The messages written on the skin of some Boston Marathon victims may be different, but Joplin residents will recognize the handwriting. Robert X. Fogarty, the creator of the “Dear World: From Joplin with Love” exhibit, took his signature style of photography and inspiration to Boston. Fogarty traveled to Joplin in 2011 and took pictures of community members with inspirational messages written on their bodies in black ink.

    April 21, 2014

  • r041414wildwood.jpg Opening of nursing home another recovery milestone

    Gladys Dutton has done a lot of things in her life, but Monday’s dedication of the Communities at Wildwood Ranch nursing home marked a first. “I’ve never cut a ribbon before,” she said. “I hope I do a good job.” Dutton was one of four residents to participate in the opening of the $8.5 million nursing center that eventually will be home to 120 people.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Joplin Redevelopment Corp. preparing for first property sale

    The first sale of property from the Joplin Redevelopment Corp. to Wallace Bajjali Development Partners is scheduled for May 16. The city staff will be working to prepare for that sale, it was discussed on Tuesday at a meeting of the JRC.

    April 9, 2014

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