Tornado’s strength surpassed expectations

Kaitlyn Marsh

The night the tornado hit Joplin is a night I will remember for a while.
That night Columbia was having some unpleasant weather as well. With the thunder, lightning and rain, I was upset my parents wouldn’t let me take a shower because I could get electrified. Instead, I grumbled into my bedroom and shut the door to work on some homework until the storm passed.
Deeply engrossed in my work, as I always am, I admit I didn’t pay much attention to my mother when she shouted from the living room for me to come quickly. A few seconds later, my sister rushed in through my door and said a tornado had gone through the Joplin area, but I was still unfazed. This wasn’t an uncommon thing to hear.
I thought back to the times I lived in Neosho when we would have frequent tornadoes, often coming from the west plains into Oklahoma and Kansas.
We would run to the basement in the middle of the night about four or five times a year, usually during spring when the cold winter air collided with the fresh, warm air. We would wake up some mornings, and our play set would be in our neighbor’s yard across the street, the power out for over a week and large trees uprooted, now blocking the streets. We woke up once to find a large crack in the ceiling where the walls had become separated because of a tornado’s high winds and another time when our garage door had been transformed as if some huge person had punched it with his giant fist.
So, when I heard of a tornado in Joplin, my first reaction was, “Yeah, OK, so they lost a couple trees, maybe a few houses, what’s the big deal?”
Then my sister said half the city was gone, and we couldn’t contact my grandparents.
The TV flashed images of devastation and chaos that made my family members’ jaws drop. My mom was frantically pressing redial, her hands shaking as she anticipated an answer from my grandpa. When the news showed clips of St. John’s Hospital in ruins with windows blown out and sections destroyed, it was almost too much to handle. This hospital was an extremely important part of this city. And this town couldn’t survive without one of its hospitals.
Finally, we received a response from my grandparents. The power had gone out, and it was still raining hardly, but they had taken shelter in a closet. This was a giant relief, but my family was still in shock from the climbing death toll and reports of those missing. The whole time we were listening for the names of our friends. Reports from cameras showed piles of cars, remainders of buildings and trees strewn in all directions; it all seemed to have no end. It looked like a warzone, and I knew the Joplin I remembered from my past was gone forever.
The truth finally tore through me: this was not the kind of tornado we were used to, not at all.
By Kaitlyn Marsh