JoplinProud – Preview of Upcoming Events

Upcoming Events and Overview of Joplin Disaster Recovery Summit

KGCS -TV Missouri Southern State University Interviews Jane Cage from the JoplinProud Committee about the different activities scheduled the week of May 17, honoring the 5th Anniversary on May 22. Jane explains the meaning of all those butterfly statues popping up around town and why the committee selected the butterfly to symbolize the past 5 years. She also discusses why the Joplin Disaster Recovery Summit is so important and what makes it unique. The interview covers highlights from the program including the opening session “Road to Resilience” which is being broadcast as a nationwide teleconference with the support of FEMA. Watch the video to find out about events that might interest you – there is something for everyone.


Chaos in a Place of Healing





Dr. Timothy M. O’Keefe, MD, Family Medicine, tells his story about the night the tornado hit Joplin as he helped patients in the emergency department of Mercy Hospital on May 22, 2011.


As the storm hit, I was unaware it was a tornado. The power went out and the emergency generators came on, but in less than a minute the power went out again. Total power failure in the hospital is unheard of. The fact the generators had failed raised anxiety levels, wondering what was going on outside.

The hospital and the ED I was in, was pummeled another 4 minutes. When it was over the ED was destroyed. The main gas line was leaking, liquid oxygen was venting off damaged tanks, the trauma helicopter was destroyed with it’s jet fuel blown through the ED.

Our disaster plan calls for re-establishing the ED in the Post Anesthesia Recovery Unit (PACU), in the center of the building. We worked our way through the radiology department heading that way with about 40 patients.

Those hallways were full of debris, lights and wires hanging down, water leaking and total darkness. It was like moving through a pitch black cave. Part way to the PACU, it became obvious the plan would never work. The building was dead and we had to evacuate. It was a difficult moment when you are standing in the dark with 40 people and you have to make that decision. This building where you worked your entire career, over decades stood for healing and caring, that had just saved you and those around you from a fierce storm, was now dead. The building now posed a danger to us and had to be evacuated.

We walked and transported into whatever uncertainty awaited outside. The first look outside brought sunlight which was nice after all the darkness but also a look at total destruction. It was shocking, there was nothing left of the neighborhoods around our hospital. How many people must have died or been severely injured, it was difficult to take it all in. There was a continuous stream of injured people arriving while we evacuated everyone from the building. We set up a triage area across the street in a parking lot. We also continued to enter the building to get vital supplies, medicine, IV fluids and medical instruments. There was concern the natural gas would explode, but people kept coming for help so we stayed near the hospital to help get them to care.

Another storm hit with rain and hail. Getting cold is very bad for trauma patients and now we had many that were cold and wet. We needed to get patients under roof and we decided on Memorial Hall. The first group of caregivers left on foot with all the supplies they could carry heading toward the Hall. That is where the Mercy ED was re-established.

The very long day continued. And what of my family?


Faith in the Storm – The Yellow Hammer

My faith in the face of the tornado looks like a yellow-handled hammer. On the night of the tornado I drove to town and began looking for people. At first, people I knew, then I just ran with strangers and helped them dig for people they knew. Early in the digging, as I walked down Oliver Street, something bright caught my eye. In a strangely clear spot, in the middle of the carnage and tree limbs, power lines and house rubble, I looked down and saw a yellow-handled hammer. It seemed out of place in the middle of the street, but important. “I might need this,” I thought. I felt sort of like I was stealing it, but carried that hammer all night and used it to claw through debris. I won’t say for sure that God put that hammer there for me to find, but it has become a symbol to me of faith and future. God never said that he would magically make the tragedies go around us or go away; he said he would be with us in their midst. God didn’t say we would never face death or destruction. He said, “I’ll offer life beyond death and give you the strength to rebuild.” My yellow-handled-faith-hammer became a symbol of God giving me a job to do and the strength to do it. “This is a big mess, but start rebuilding, Aaron.” My yellow-handled-faith-hammer was my marching orders to do my small part to rebuild a city, one nail, one home, one school, one church, one hospital, one life at a time. I still feel like this hammer doesn’t belong to me. So, to whomever it belongs, it’s yours for the asking.

Aaron Brown, Lead Pastor, Saint Paul’s United Methodist Church, Joplin, Missouri


Joplin City Leader, Matt Stewart, Chief of JPD Reflects on the Night of the Joplin Tornado

Imagine the chaos and emotions of experiencing one of the largest natural disasters in the United States. Now imagine you are a police officer in your beloved community that has endured this devastation! Learn how Matt Stewart, Joplin, Missouri Police Chief reflects on that night, May 22nd, 2011.

Where were you when the tornado hit and how did you hear about it?

I was at home in southern Missouri, and my brother called me. He said that a tornado had hit the west side of Joplin. It is not abnormal for tornados in this area, and I figured if it was big enough, someone would call. Then he called back about 10 minutes later, and said that he heard that it had hit “St. John’s” and it was bad. I figured I needed to turn on my radio at that point. Of course, there was a lot of activity on the police radio so I decided to come up to Joplin.

Where did you first go once you went to Joplin that night?

I initially went up Rangeline and I stopped at 24th and Rangeline for a bit to help with security at the devastation at Walmart, Home Depot and that area that was hit pretty hard. I eventually ended up at 20th and Connecticut and we set up a command post. I spent the next day or two there.

When you were driving up Rangeline for the first time, what was your reaction, and separating that out from the fact that you had a job to do?

It was a bit crazy! It sounded really bad on the police radio traffic. Then I get up there, and businesses are gone, power lines are down and cars are everywhere. You are trying to keep the place secure and keeping people out. But then you have parents coming up and saying that their kid works up there and they want to find their kid. It was hard to keep people out so we abandoned that for a little bit. Driving down 20th street from Rangeline to Connecticut, it looked like a war zone. All the landmarks were gone, all the trees were gone, all of the houses were gone. So it was pretty surreal at that point. Even then I still had not grasped how big it was!

What was your reaction when people wanted to lend a hand?

It was odd and very humbling! It was weird how many people just showed up at 20th and Connecticut that night — all kinds of people, citizens, other law enforcement, people that had just dug themselves out of their home that had just lost everything. There was a couple of guys that showed up with a backhoe and bulldozers. They helped clear an area so a helicopter could land. We even had people from the Tulsa P.D. It was amazing seeing these people from that far away and getting to Joplin so quickly. Even to this day, I will hear about or talk to another police agency and find out that they were in Joplin helping, and I never knew. We had over 100 agencies that came to Joplin to help! It was so big, we were not able to know who all came.

Joplin Disaster Recovery Summit IS Worthwhile

If your profession deals with disaster recovery, why would you travel to a small city in the middle of the country to attend another conference? What makes the Joplin Disaster Recovery Summit worthwhile?

  • Every panel is comprised of leaders and elected officials that have lived through disasters in their own community. They have real-world experience that has given them an outlook that goes beyond any training and are willing to share their successes and their failures.
  • It’s a conference that chronicles the journey from response to recovery to resilience with communities that continue their recovery even today.
  • Panelists are coming from across the center of the country – Minot, ND; Pilger, NE; Cedar Rapids, IA; Greensburg, KS; Joplin, MO; Vilonia, AR and Tuscaloosa, AL. Each community was deeply affected by a disaster in the last decade.
  • Breakout sessions cover topics such as donations management, debris removal, the factors that determine recovery resources, the stress of long-term leadership, housing solutions to maintain population levels post-disaster, citizen engagement, helping children post-disaster, and ways to return lost photographs and lost pets.
  • Leonard Marcus from Harvard University, the conference keynote speaker, explores how leaders can lead more effectively during a crisis as well as the phenomenon of Swarm Intelligence and how it multiplies recovery efforts.
  • The conference is affordable. The $75 registration fee is meant to cover meals and materials. It’s organized by community members that want to pay it forward for the many kindnesses that Joplin received. Scholarships are available in special circumstances.
  • If you’re interested in seeing the progress Joplin has made in recovery since the 2011 tornado, there are opportunities for guided tours and to attend other commemorative events.

If this conference has piqued your interest, register soon as attendance is limited. For more information and to register, click here.

In the Words of Our Volunteer

Many thanks for the information regarding this event. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it, as much as I would love to, but I will definitely be there in spirit with you all.
In May 2011, myself, and a group of friends and family, some from Australia and some from the U.S embarked on an adventure doing Route 66, starting off in Chicago.
When leaving Australia, we heard about the devastating tornado that had hit Joplin.
As I live in a tropical part of Australia, we often get hit with cyclones, which are similar to your hurricanes, and have seen and suffered the devastation it causes, but when we decided to take a day out of our holiday to come help out in Joplin, I have to honestly say I was GOBSMACKED. The huge area of devastation was unbelievable! We worked alongside some amazing volunteers that day, and will never forget them. When being bused out to an area to work, a couple of young American guys heard our accents (because apparently we have one 😉 and they asked what we were doing there. When we told them we wanted to help, they couldn’t thank us enough. They were so thankful for the help, which was very humbling considering what you had all just been through. I remember these same young guys being injured that day, when a truck came in the back of one of the properties to pick up a vehicle, and bumped a power pole and it spun around and hit the guys in the legs. I never heard what injuries they had, but feared they may have had broken limbs or dislocation at the very least. I certainly hoped they were ok.
We also found a kitten alive under the rumble which was really heart-warming. We heard the stories of a couple of the home owners that day, whom had been in their houses when it hit, including an older lady, and was so glad they had come out of it alive, considering their houses was just a pile of rubble when finished.
I would really love to come back for a visit and see Joplin as it should be, rebuilt and proud, and hopefully I will get back there one day.
I am in awe of your spirit and grit, and how you came together as a community to help each other. That is one thing we have in common, we call it our ‘Aussie Spirit’, but obviously you guys have the same spirit – ‘American Spirit’ as well.
I will remember my experience in Joplin forever and always, and will always feel a bond and protectiveness towards Joplin. God Bless Joplin! xx

Kindest Regards
Leonie Mundey

Join us as we “Pay It Forward”!

There’s not a person in Joplin that would have believed that our community would be in the spot we are today – recovering from a tornado that destroyed a significant portion of our town and took the lives of 161 of our friends, family and neighbors. It’s been a long five years. We’ve celebrated some incredible successes, and have had our share of struggles at the same time. If it weren’t for the incredible number of volunteers that have helped us, we could never have come this far.

We have learned a lot about what long-term recovery means and are continuing to learn every day. As a way to mark the fifth anniversary of the most significant event to affect our community we began to look for a way to “pay it forward”. We decided that the best way was to share what we, and other communities impacted by disasters, have learned through a disaster recovery summit to be held in Joplin on May 19th and 20th.

Our tagline is “Real People, Real Lessons, Real Experience”. Our conference participants include community leaders from

  • Greensburg, Kansas – 2007 Tornado that destroyed 95% of their town
  • Tuscaloosa, Alabama – 2011 Tornado that killed 44 people
  • Cedar Rapids, Iowa – 2008 Flooding with 10 square miles of flooding including 5,900 homes
  • Minot, North Dakota – 2011 Mouse River Flood with over 11,000 individuals displaced
  • Moore, Oklahoma – 2013, 2010, 2003 Tornados including an EF5 killing 24 people
  • Vilonia, Arkansas – 2014 Tornado with 16 fatalities
  • Pilger, Nebraska – 2014 Tornado destroying over 50% of the village

The conference begins Thursday afternoon with “The Road to Resilience” when leaders of impacted cities will discuss the successes and struggles in long-term recovery. Friday has two highlights – a keynote address from Dr. Leonard Marcus from Harvard University on Crisis Leadership and a set of TED-style talks that highlight pivotal moments in recovery. The rest of the day is filled with breakout sessions with practical advice and anecdotes from panelists that have lived and breathed recovery.

Consider attending this unique conference that you won’t find anywhere else – we’re limited to the first 300 attendees so register soon.

Join us as we all share together what we have learned!

The Other Side of Storm

The complete devastation and death in the aftermath of the 2011 tornado was a shock to Dr. Hubert Bird. Dr. Bird was born in Joplin and is a composer and conductor, known both nationally and internationally. Needing to talk about it to a close friend, Dr. Bird called the retired director of the U.S. Army Band, Colonel Bryan Shelburne. The conversation led the two men to realize that an artistic expression in music and voice could serve as one way for Hubert to communicate his own sorrow and that of the community of Joplin.

Dr. Bird went to work on the original composition. It was performed initially in Joplin in 2012. Performers included Joplin’s All City Singers, a chorus of more than 100 high school students, a forty five-piece orchestra with members from across the country, and Bird’s daughter and son-in law, Jennifer and Bjoern Arvidsson as soloists.

Since that first performance, Dr. Bird has continued to develop the piece. While the core has remained unchanged, new material has been added, including new vocal and narrative sections. Furthermore, Danny Craven, a Joplin High School teacher, is developing a visual element for it.

Performance of the updated version of “The Other Side of Storm” is scheduled during the Joplin Proud five year anniversary event. It will be held in Joplin High School’s new Performing Arts Center on the evening of May 20 and 21. Open to the public, there is no charge for admission, but tickets will be required. Ticket information will be available at closer to the May dates.

Journal Joplin


As we come upon the fifth anniversary of a tornado that claimed 161 lives, we pause to reflect on not only those lives lost, but also the many changes that Joplin has moved through since 2011.

Journal Joplin! offers an opportunity for 161 community leaders, citizens and ex-patriots to record their thoughts on Joplin’s progress and challenges that have brought the community to this anniversary.  Journal writers can create poetry, art or just journal their thoughts and feelings over the course of two months, as they individually prepare for the anniversary weekend.

We believe participating in this journaling activity can help with continued healing from a traumatic event, bring closure and provide a creative way to remember and release.

Once your journal is complete we ask that you return it by May 22 where it will be catalogued and archived at the Joplin Public Library for future remembrance.

Contact Ann Leach to participate or for more information at

Joplin Proud and Five Years Strong

JOPLIN, MO – September 17, 2015 – In May 2016, our community will mark five years since the devastating EF-5 tornado that tore through Joplin and Duquesne. To honor this, community volunteers announce Joplin Proud – four days to remember what we lost, thank the volunteers who came to our aid, and be proud of the progress we have made as a community.

Joplin Proud has kicked off with an effort by the Joplin Chamber of Commerce Foundation. The Spread Our Wings – Fly High and Proud project provides the opportunity to purchase a beautiful butterfly sculpture to be personalized by the buyer. Beginning in May 2016, these sculptures will be displayed throughout Joplin. The proceeds from this project will support the Disaster Recovery Summit to be held at Missouri Southern State University on May 19 and 20.

Throughout the extended weekend, a variety of events are planned to honor what was lost that day and celebrate where our community is five years later. These include the Joplin Memorial Marathon, community reunion picnic, and non-denominational memorial service. A complete calendar can be found at

There are several ways everyone can get involved in Joplin Proud – by volunteering at an event, by financially supporting the events, and by attending the events. Details on how to get involved can be found on the soon to be live website,

Help show the world we are Joplin Proud and five years strong.