When I first came to Joplin last year on assignment from HLN TV in the aftermath of the tornado, the devastation was to a level that’s hard to understand. It was like 360-degree destruction no matter which direction you looked.
Buildings either cratered or disintegrated. The high school had collapsed. Five people sadly died in a church across the street from where I was broadcasting. I spoke to teens who heard people moaning in the rubble of the church and did what they could to save lives. One 14 year old saved the life of a woman who ultimately lost her leg but could have lost her life. This kid knew what to do to stop the bleeding until help arrived.
One year later, the rubble piles are gone. A lot of rebuilding has already begun, but there’s far more to do here.
Wherever you look now, you see a real triumph of the human spirit and incredible generosity among citizens. People gave up their vacations last year to clean up, and they continue to do so this year for the build. Last estimate I heard was 130,000 volunteers have poured in from across the country to help rebuild Joplin during the past year.
Today, on this anniversary of the tornado, we started a Habitat home that it’s my privilege to sponsor. But a Habitat home is just a building. What matters is the family that goes inside it. In this case, the homeowner-to-be is Deborah Morris.
When the tornado hit in 2011, Deborah and her family went into the bathroom in their home for shelter. They emerged to find that every room in their house was damaged except for the bathroom. As Deborah says, “God kept us safe.”
Deborah and the three autistic children she cares for (ages 4, 6 and 10) had a rough year. Autistic kids thrive on routine and the tornado took that from their lives as surely as it did their home. Yet they’re thriving and surviving.
When Deborah’s Habitat home is built, she’ll pay a mortgage of somewhere between $500 and $600 (including taxes and insurance.) It’s my hope this new four-bedroom home will provide peace, tranquility, and permanency for her and her kids.