The May 22 tornado that shredded huge swatches of Joplin, Missouri, left arbitrary piles of pick-up-stick rubble where a grid of homes, businesses and churches had stood only moments before. The new Joplin will never again look like the Joplin of May 21. It will be years before the town takes on the appearance of what it is—a place where people live, work, guide their kids through school and occasionally sit on the porch and ponder life’s larger mysteries and beauties.
That the twister’s erratic path, which dismantled nearly 8,000 structures, claimed only 160 human lives might be seen as a miracle, if not for the ripples of tragedy that radiated out from each lost person.
But Joplin is home to miracles, and they are easy to see: The community’s public schools opened this week, in time for the new school year. High school students are attending class in an empty department store, and a warehouse has been converted into a middle school, and an important milestone to recovery has been established among the wreckage.
Books and supplies are streaming in from across the country and around the world. The school district, grateful for the care packages, tactfully points out that the most useful donation is money.