Our Opinion: Joplin’s year of recovery

Much accomplished; much work remains

The past year provides some perspective on the magnitude of the deadly tornado that devastated Joplin on May 22, 2011.

The anniversary is both a testament to immense recovery efforts and a reminder of the massive task that remains.

This seeming paradox — so much accomplished; so much left to do — delineates the magnitude and scope of this natural disaster.

The Joplin tornado killed 161 people, ranking it the deadliest in six decades. It destroyed thousands of structures — homes, businesses, schools, a major hospital — in the city of 50,000, which expanded to nearly 240,000 on work days. And the costs of the destruction are estimated at $2.8 billion, placing the Joplin twister as the costliest since at least 1950.

The response also has been phenomenal.

Although insurance is expected to cover many costs, governments, businesses and charities have propelled much of the recovery.

The federal government has provided disaster aid, including trailers distributed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. City government has replaced manholes and sirens, and school district patrons have approved a bond issue for rebuilding.

A number of businesses have rebuilt or are in the process, including St. John’s Regional Medical Center. And disaster relief has come from numerous charitable organizations, from the Red Cross to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

This larger picture and its big numbers, however, do not begin to tell the individual stories of Joplin’s residents. Theirs are stories of loss, hope, rebuilding, recovery, perseverance, fortitude, determination, sharing, caring, compassion, assistance and more. In short, their stories touch on all aspects of the human spirit. The past year has tested that collective human spirit. And it has been found more than equal to the task.

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