Restoring Joplin's Future

Head over to ASBJ on Facebook for an in-depth
view of the incredible damage Joplin schools sustained and also view a glimpse of the rebuilding efforts. Shot through the lens of
ASBJ's editor-in-chief, Glenn Cook:

Restoring The Future
Joplin in photos.
Story and photos by Glenn Cook

A few days after 445 Joplin High School graduates received their diplomas last May, board members and Superintendent C.J. Huff gathered in the school’s parking lot for an emergency meeting. Minutes were taken on a two-by-four piece of wood.

“Where do we start?” board member Randy Steele asked.

In some form, questions like that have been asked every day since then, because when you’re dealing with one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history, answers beget more questions.

On May 22, 2011, an EF-5 tornado packing winds of more than 200 mph cut a three-quarter mile path through the middle of Joplin, Mo. The 32-minute storm, which started as the graduation ceremony ended at a nearby university, ultimately claimed 161 lives and caused $3 billion in damage. More than 900 homes and buildings were destroyed, including a large community hospital, four schools, the district’s technology center, and the central office.

Schools opened -- on time -- 87 days after the tornado. On April 21, days after taxpayers vote on a $62 million bond issue to rebuild the district, this year’s seniors will attend their prom. And on May 21, with President Obama in attendance, another class will graduate.

How a district goes from its darkest day to one for which the future looks challenging but ultimately bright, is a remarkable display of resiliency and leadership. In interviews conducted over the past several months -- concluding as another round of spring tornadoes devastated other Midwestern communities -- it’s a fact lost on no one in Joplin.

“If you have relationships, you can build resiliency,” Huff says. “If you have resiliency, you can recover.”

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