Noticing the Trees


Just one year after our first trip to Joplin and almost two full years since the devastating tornado that forever changed this Ozark town, much has changed. We first noticed the amount of new growth on the trees as you drive into town. Last year the trees got progressively shorter as you came closer to the actual path of the tornado where there were no longer any trees. These trees looked as though they’d suffered a horrifically bad back-to-school haircut. Today, they seem to stand taller, with a full head of new ‘spring’ hair growing in up top. In the tornado path, what trees that remained were completely stripped of bark but you could tell they were once strong and robust, today one has been paintedwith a beautiful rainbow, another with a birdhouse in the top branches. (I would have a picture but I was driving the church van ;). In some odd way this represents new growth here in Joplin, how the people are able to see the beauty of that tree still exists. It continues to be a valued part of the landscape.

It is amazing to drive down 20th Ave. (the northern edge of the tornado path) where last year there were very few signs of life. An empty, open space stretched for blocks. Space that once held homes, apartments, a bank, a church and the high school. Sunday, I almost missed the turn onto 20th Ave. as I was still looking for the open spaces. Now standing on the corner is a fast food place, the street now lined with a new apartment complex, many new homes, a Casey’s General Store, two new churches, and of course the beginnings of a new high school.

Rebuild Joplin and the many other organizations leading this recovery effort have done a tremendous amount of work in the past two years. It seems to be picking up steam too. Rebuild Joplin currently has eight active “worksites.” I call them homes. Our project does not have a designated owner, yet. We are busy taping and mudding drywall at a worksite called an Opportunity Home or ‘Op 2’. This is a new home being built to provide someone who previously rented a chance at home ownership with the mortgage for material costs only. Over 70 percent of the residences destroyed were rentals.