Tuesday, May 24, 2011


My heart breaks for the people in Joplin who are reeling from the disaster.  I heard about the tornadoes Sunday night while we were at the Fox theater seeing Jersey Boys (a much more enjoyable theater experience than last time).  When I went to the ladies room at intermission, I had TWELVE text messages (contrary to how cool I seem on this blog, I am not normally that popular).  One of my dearest friends (who shall go unnamed) is The Severe Weather Watchdog.  She had sent me several texts to let me know that Joplin had been blown to smithereens and St. Louis was about to be hit by the mother of all severe storms.  I called her a fearmongerer, but then again I was in a dark theater and couldn't see or hear anything going on.

(Her response:  This is not fearmongering. This is serious.)

When the show got out, it had obviously rained but there was no storm damage, so obviously the worst of it missed St. Louis.  It was barely sprinkling as we walked to our car, and I thought maybe The Severe Weather Watchdog had exaggerated the damage in Joplin.

Yeah, not so much.  Every time I watch the news, I find myself blinking and shaking my head slowly back and forth because I just can't believe what I'm seeing.

I'm sure most of you have seen the news footage, too.  It is unreal.  My heart has gone out to the victims of the Japan earthquake and tsunami, to those in Alabama who suffered the effects of a tornado; I know that bad things happen every day.  But Joplin is so close to my hometown--this wasted city is one that is very familiar to me.

I grew up an hour from Joplin, but it was totally our secondary stomping ground because it was the closest shopping mall.  And also the nearest town with more than three restaurants.

I got my sixth grade Anti-Van (read: school-sponsored Halloween party that kept kids occupied so they wouldn't egg and toilet paper people's homes) outfit at County Seat in the Joplin mall.  It was a pink skirt and a pink and green Southwestern print shirt and a green cardigan.  Yes, it was totally cute at the time.  At least I thought so.  I felt so cool dancing with my sort-of middle school boyfriend, who was a head shorter than I was (and I was not a tall girl).

My mom took us back-to-school shopping in Joplin every year.  My brother and I always got Sbarro pizza for lunch and drinks from Orange Julius in the mall food court.

My high school boyfriend and I used to drive to Joplin in his little white pick-up truck to go to Hastings and buy used CDs.  REM and Pearl Jam and the Grateful Dead and the Ramones.  I still have those CDs.  Sometimes after school, we'd drive to Joplin just to get Little Caesar's crazy bread (He was crazy about those breadsticks.  Also gas was like $.89/gallon.  Because that was a million years ago.)

I took my little cousin there shopping for back-to-school clothes--we cruised down there in my 1968 Plymouth Valiant, listening to Alanis Morissette and Jewel on a cassette tape, ready to hit the fitting rooms at J.C. Penney and the Limited, Too.

My friends and I would drive down to buy jeans at American Eagle and underwear at Victoria's Secret and eat at Garfields, which was attached to the mall food court.  We were sixteen and unstoppably awesome.

My speech and debate team (shuddup) would stop there for pizza if we'd done well at a weekend tournament.
Joplin was the closest thing we had to civilization, if by "civilization" you mean Applebee's, which, in this case only, I do.  Going to Joplin was always a treat.  It was a smallish city, but it held all the promise of new wardrobes and high school romances and the freedom of drivers licenses and alternative music.

On our first date, David suggested we drive the hour to Joplin to eat at Olive Garden.

My only connections with Joplin are fleeting, superficial, short visits for shopping and eating.  But every memory I have of that city is a good one.  Seeing the destruction on TV is just unbelievable.  I mean seriously, you guys.  It is UNreal.  It looks like the whole frigging city was built of balsa wood.  And they're saying on TV that more severe weather is on its way.

It is a stunning reminder of how quickly things can change; how life can just turn upside down in an instant.  No promises, no guarantees.  You can't know for sure that you get to keep your family, your home, your sanity.  It could all be gone tomorrow.

OMG watching the news right now--just saw a family pull their little dog out of the wreckage of their house.  The thought of these lost pets just slays me.  How scared and confused these little animals must be.  Of course, the loss of human lives is another tragedy I just don't even want to wrap my head around.

I know that so many of you reading this have been sending your love and thoughts and prayers my way.  While you're at it, please send some down to Joplin, Missouri.  Because tragedy strikes in all different ways and Nature is incredibly imaginative when she sends destruction our way.

It's another moment to be grateful for what is.  If this news footage has shown me anything, it's that I am certainly not alone today in mourning what has been lost.


  1. It is so heartbreaking. My heart has been heavy all day about Joplin and the severe storms that were forecast (and are occurring) this evening. I used to find severe weather interesting, but now, from a more adult point of view, it just makes me feel sick. Those poor, helpless people.

  2. I had softball tournaments in Joplin every summer and have fond memories of the small city too. I remember that Walmart especially as we always ended up going there for sunscreen, etc. that we had forgotten and it was so massive and impressive (this was before every walmart was a super walmart). I can't believe that *that* walmart is gone. And yeah, what you said. Heartbreaking.

  3. I like how you say you cannot wrap your head around the human fatalities. I can't either and I'm positively glad they haven't said how many were children. I saw the clip where the high school seniors were on their way home from their graduation and some of them never made it home. I had to change the channel. Reading your memories of Joplin, I remember the tornado that blasted through Hoisington KS back in 2001. I was already in college, but my town was 10 minutes away from there. I was definitely remembering all the trips to Ho-town(as we affectionately called it) to check out those small town boys. One of them had been very dear to my heart and was still living there. It's random and tragic and it's beginning to feel as though there is death everywhere.

  4. My heart goes out to the people of Joplin. I like you think about the animals also. I am keeping all of gods creations in Joplin in my prayers. I am from New Orleans and I know what it feels like to have a town that is completely destroyed, the only difference is that with a hurricane you can get out of the way before it hits, tornado's are different.

  5. I live in Wichita and have been to Joplin many times for YMCA gymnastics meets. I agree - it's even harder to handle when it's a town your physically and emotionally close to. This is all just so awful.

  6. You'll be glad to know all you're happening teen hot spots are still here. The mall, Hastings, Garfields, Applebee's, and Olive Garden. My house is okay. Sadly though, there are so many homes and businesses destroyed. Heartbreaking.

  7. It is so unimaginable and awful! I live in Wichita so we're also not far from Joplin and the hospital I work at has actually gotten some patients from that area this week. The loss and trauma those families have experienced is so overwhelming to consider. Definitely holding them all in my heart and hopeful that no more severe weather strikes them at such a vulnerable time.

  8. What could possibly be worse than the tragedy in such a good city?


    It's the public notice that the Westboro Baptist Church (cult) will be protesting the devastation because they are happy about it. Makes. Me. Sick.

  9. I've always been both fascinated & frightened by tornados. My grandfather in Minnesota was afraid of bad weather (which he apparently inherited from his mother) & passed it along to me. ; ) Their house had a dirt cellar that was half caved in, so whenever a bad storm was approaching, we'd get hauled out of bed, no matter what the hour, & over to a neighbour's where there was a basement. I still have weird tornado-related dreams to this day, & this spring has sure provided lots of fodder for my nightmares. :(