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New to the Orleans was Old to the Midwest: Tornado in Joplin, Missouri

May 24, 2011

"We are OK here," a message on a house after a tornado in Joplin, MO. (AP Photo from

We hear a lot about hurricane season in New Orleans. Every conversation with someone who lived during in New Orleans during Katrina uses her as a time demarcation. I’ll hear, “Before the storm” or “After Katrina,” or humbly realize that I have clothes and furniture and photos from pre-2005, and many people down here have nothing.

Residents of Joplin will likely begin to use May 22, 2011 at their time demarcation. As I watch the footage on the raging tornado in Joplin, Missouri on Sunday night I can’t help thinking that we can never control Mother Nature. We try, and time and again we lose.

New Orleans Spraypainted X

The fronts of many houses in New Orleans still have the search X from Katrina. (Photo from

I talked to my parents on the phone yesterday. They live just outside of Joplin, and my father works next door to St. John Hospital that has been a focal point of news stories. My parents watched the storm brew as they headed east towards home from Wichita. That storm met up with another front, and a giant twister formed, taking out 25-30% of the entire town of Joplin. Reports say that 116 have already been counted among the fatalities. The twister moved slowly through the town, destroying homes and businesses for miles.

My father was allowed to drive down the street to his office, and he expected to find nothing left. Butted against the dirt on the lowest floor, his years worth of client records were still dry. Humbled by the devastation, my mother said she has never feared tornadoes before, but has a new respect for Mother Nature. I understand her sentiments: growing up in Kansas, we tend to disregard tornadoes, similar to how New Orleaneans have Hurricane parties, a slight mockery of what we think we can control, ride out, avoid.

But oh, Mother Nature, you are indeed in control.

One Comment leave one →
  1. krobb permalink
    May 25, 2011 6:57 am

    the devastation is…devastating. glad to hear your family is okay. it’s uplifting to hear the blessings that come out of stories like these but so heartbreaking to hear and see the loss as well.

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