While at my parents’ house over Thanksgiving, I ran through the streets of Joplin for the first time since three weeks after the tornado struck. What a difference 18 months has made. The debris is generally gone, and rebuilding is well underway. Of course, it’s not the same as it was before. Standing at ground zero 18 months ago, seeing every structure and tree leveled as far as I could see in every direction, it was clear it would never be the same again. The complete loss of trees from established neighborhoods alone proved that. It takes years to rebuild thousands of homes. Germany’s reconstruction after WWII took 40 years. New homes and businesses are going up in the destroyed neighborhoods, though they are still outnumbered by the vacant lots around them. While I know the new homes rose, one by one, shining and new from the rubble, they still have the odd look of having hunkered down and somehow survived some horrific disaster which claimed those around them. They look like survivors, an appropriate metaphor for the whole town.
The city lost 161 of its citizens to a random, devastating event. Joplin is a hard-working town in the heartland of America. It didn’t deserve what happened. But the townspeople reacted the way Americans, the way humans, react: by rebuilding, by going on. Life changed forever, but it went on. It always goes on.
“We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.” –Winston Churchill