Two weeks ago today I walked into work and was told I was heading to Joplin, Missouri to cover the devastating tornado. I rushed home, packed my bags, and photojournalist Ira Klusendorf and I were in rainy Joplin by 8pm. The Joplin area had 9” of rain on Monday hampering rescue efforts. We could see damage for about a block in the darkness, but morning sun shed light on the extent of the devastation. It was heartbreaking.
If the tornado had touch down just 8 miles west it would have been in cattle fields of NE Oklahoma, instead there was a 6 mile path of devastation in NW Joplin that got worse with every city block. The damage is truly worse in person because you are surrounded by it; while the camera gives you just a window. What makes it even worse; the stories and the emotion. You feel their pain and despair as they struggle to cope with what happened.
I am stunned that more were not killed despite having 20 minutes of advanced warning. These were 40-80 year old homes with no basements and surrounded by huge trees that crashed through roofs. Many got into the bathtub or closest and literally held on for their life as 200+ mph winds ripped their homes apart.
Many admit to not taking the warning seriously and continued shopping or eating…fortunately now they understand the power and have incredible stories of survival.