On May 21, 2011, a category E-5 tornado tore through the town of Joplin, Missouri causing catastrophic damage. In response, numerous organizations sought ways to help those affected by the tornado. The Missouri Humanities Council, along with partners the Missouri Writers’ Guild and Mozark Press, banded together to create an anthology to benefit the Joplin School libraries. The book Storm Country, published in November 2011, contains 70 poems, short stories, and creative nonfiction works from a range of authors, including the Missouri and Kansas poets laureate, a Joplin High School sophomore, sixth-grade students from Fair Grove Middle School, and mystery writer Elaine Viets. The anthology sold for $10 and all proceeds went to the Missouri Writers’ Guild Joplin Book Drive to benefit Joplin School Libraries for the purchase of books, furniture, and equipment as the libraries continue to rebuild.
Missouri Humanities Council Board Vice Chair Michele Hansford also had first-hand experience with the recovery efforts and their effects on local Missour citizens. In a story published in the August 2012 MHC newsletter, Missouri Passages, she writes:
It has been a year since the towns of Joplin and Duquesne suffered an E F-5 tornado. I am in Joplin and Duquesne weekly and have noticed the amazing fast-paced recovery taking place; yet there is still a great deal of work to be done. The reconstruction of what was lost in Joplin and Duquesne – approximately one third of Joplin and 70 percent of Duquesne – is an enormous project, one that is still progressing. Some residents have replaced destroyed homes while others are just starting the rebuilding process.
Sometimes it is the simple things that mean the most to those affected by the storm. Minister of music Thad Beeler of the First Baptist Church of Carthage is working on a project called “Lost Photos of Joplin” that helps connect precious lost photos with their owners. Almost 35,000 photos have been recovered with over 10,000 returned to the tornado victims. The Powers Museum in Carthage has donated materials to the “Lost Photos” project. When the project coordinators asked me to visit their facility, I was extremely delighted. While reviewing the surname inventory, I found one photo described as “Anderson Seniors 1948.” I remembered that one of the two friends I had attended the anniversary events had attended Anderson High School in McDonald County. I made a call and was told that this was her senior class. “I have located your senior class photo and would like to return it to you,” I said. She replied, “Only me.” My friend did not know she had lost her only senior class photograph. This was just one example of a tiny miracle among many in the corner of Southwest Missouri.
To read Michele Hansford's entire article, "On the Road to Recovery: Joplin," and to learn more about other Joplin recovery efforts, visit the Missouri Humanities Council's online version of Missouri Passages.