Joplin is history. Brothels and Bonnie and Clyde. Critical race theory through the eyes of Langston Hughes. The stubborn nonconformity of Thomas Hart Benton. Dennis Weaver’s gait and Bob Cummings’ airplane car. Oh, and The Mick, before there was a Jagger. A city painfully aware of Heraclitus’ proverb that you never step in the same river twice – the city of Joplin is rising from the rubble.
For too many good people in Joplin, the end came on May 22, 2011, 40 years and 17 days after an event immortalized as “The Joplin Tornado.”
One day after a West Coast preacher’s prediction for the end of the world came and went, the end came for everything in the path of an EF-5 tornado that thrashed through Joplin, leaving 162 people dead, killing countless pets, dashing schools and hospitals, crushing cars like stomping aluminum cans, pulverizing houses, disintegrating businesses, devouring keepsakes and photo albums and stained glass windows, busting eardrums, shattering every window and stoplight and skylight and porch light, stripping the life from every tree, and leaving tree trunks the size of tent poles.
Ever resilient, the survivors opened their arms to the needy, showing us how it is done.
Somewhere Langston Hughes is smiling.
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