By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
With the playground full of children, it could be any other day at Joplin’s Cunningham Park, but the white tents popping up and neat rows of white chairs lined up nearby indicate something more is happening today.
“We’re ready,” said Chris Cotten, Joplin’s parks director, who has been helping his crews set up for a ceremony today in observance of the second anniversary of Joplin’s May 22, 2011, tornado.
Cotten said crews started mowing at 7 a.m. today and they have been working several weeks on maintenance in advance of today’s event. The park is ringed with 161 trees that stand as memorials to those who died as a result of the tornado.
“We had a few trees that didn’t make it through the winter but we are pretty diligent on keeping 161 trees here,” Cotten said, noting that those trees that died were replaced.
“It won’t be in our lifetime they will be as big as the ones that were here before the tornado, but they will be someday,” Cotten said.
He also invited children who can brave Cunningham’s cool water for a free swim tonight from 6 to 9 p.m.
“It’s chilly, that water is like 68 degrees,” Cotten said.
Joplin resident Kim Hankins is one of the parents who is at the park with her children today. “I brought my boys here just to be here and be grateful for where we are today.”
The ceremony starts at 4:40 p.m. with a moment of silence to be observed at 5:41 p.m. — the time the first tornado hit was reported two years ago.