On May 22, 2011 the lives of the people of Joplin, Missouri, were changed forever as an EF-5 tornado struck around dinner time, crushing nearly a third of the city. It pounded about 5,000 buildings, knocked out power and cellphone service for many, and damaged water treatment and sewage plants. The tangled remains of cars and trucks were overturned and thrown against buildings and trees. Some blocks were jagged mounds of debris, while others were stripped to utter emptiness: just foundations of homes and tree trunks — no leaves, no branches, no bark. A city changed forever and over 160 lives lost. The list of the missing totaled 1,500 - and slowly dwindled as people were rescued and the fate of many confirmed. As the people of Joplin pull themselves out of the rubble and put their lives back together, there is a strong spirit of hope, as midwestern love meets survivors guilt to drive a surge of selflessness, those with something left sharing with those who have nothing.
Tim Slocombe and his son Eliajah, 16, raise an American flag into the air on a tree flagpole in the aftermath of an EF-5 tornado that hit in the the center of Joplin, Mo. “It’s for morale,” Slocombe told his son. The storm flatted over 9,000 homes and businesses and left at least 162 dead.
The tornado caused St. Johns Hospital to be visible from parts of Joplin where it had never been seen before, a dark scar of the storm which lingered at the building as it tore through town. At least five people at the hospital were killed as a backup generator failed, leaving ventilators and medical equipment without power in dark rooms, nearly everyone cut by shattered glass.
Sara Thomas cries after fearing the worst fate of her friend’s four children who lived in a house destroyed by the EF-5 tornado in Joplin, Missouri
Kristofer Provins looks through what remains at his destroyed apartment as the sun sets in Joplin, Missouri on Wednesday, May 25, 2011. Neighbors had reported him to have been killed in the storm, but he in fact lived by taking shelter in the Wal-Mart store nearby after leaving his home.
Patti Johnson is reunited with her friend Susan Eck in the aftermath of a tornado, Tuesday, May 24, 2011.
Neighbors and volunteers search in the rain for 86-year-old Betty Jo Fisher, who was confined to her bed when the tornado struck Sunday afternoon in the the center of Joplin, Missouri. While her caregiver survived, the Jasper County coroner coroner later confirmed that Fisher died in the storm.
Tom Hatfield smokes a cigarette as he and friend Bonnie McMullen leave Hatfield’s mother’s home as another storm rolls in after they spent their morning looking for pictures and clothing to save in the aftermath of a tornado that hit Sunday afternoon in the the center of Joplin, Missouri, killing dozens and leaving a path of devastation in its path as seen on Monday, May 23, 2011. Hatfield’s mother survived the tornado by hiding inside of a closet.
Tim Slocombe looks back towards Saint Johns Hospital while checking houses for survivors in the aftermath of a tornado that hit Sunday afternoon in the the center of Joplin, Missouri, killing dozens and leaving a path of devastation in its path as seen on Monday, May 23, 2011.
Water damaged photographs rest inside of a car in Hampshire Terrace apartments among the aftermath of a tornado that hit Sunday afternoon in the the center of Joplin, Missouri, killing over a hundred people and leaving a path of devastation, as seen on Tuesday, May 24, 2011.
Pittsburg State graduate nurse Brie Watson directs people to the stairwells as they seek shelter inside the basement of the Red Cross shelter at the Missouri Southern State University gymnasium in Joplin, Missouri Tuesday night as another storm passes nearby.
A fire burns what remains of Steve Miller’s rental property on 16th Street in the aftermath of the worst tornado in decades on Wednesday, May 25, 2011 in Joplin, Mo. After the storm, gas leaks and electrical fires caused homes to catch fire even after they were ripped apart by the tornado.
Amber Spradley and her niece Jakala Sherrick, 2, and her friend’s son Tayvionne Meeker, 3, rest after being forced from their homes that were destroyed by Sunday’s storm, leaving them with few possessions in the Red Cross shelter at Missouri Southern State University. Spradley saved the lives of Sherrick and Meeker when she was babysitting them by hiding inside the bathroom and shielding them with her body when the storm hit.