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Entries in Joplin (26)

Monday
May212012

President Obama Hails Resilience of Joplin, Graduates Year After Tornado

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GettyImages(JOPLIN, Mo.) -- President Obama returned to Joplin, Mo., Monday night, one year after a monster tornado leveled the town on high school graduation day, to celebrate its remarkable recovery and the first class of graduates since the storm.

“As I look out at this class, and across this city, what’s clear is that you’re the source of inspiration today -- to me, to this state, to this country, and to people all over the world,” Obama said at Joplin High School’s 2012 commencement ceremony, where he was the keynote speaker.

“By now, most of you have probably relived those 32 minutes again and again,” he said of the twister, a mile-wide EF-5 that tore across the region with winds over 200 miles per hour. “Where you were.  What you saw.  When you knew for sure that it was over.

“And yet, the story of Joplin isn’t just the story of what happened the next day,” Obama said.  “It’s the story of what happened the next day, and the day after that.  And all the days and weeks and months that followed.”

The president, who visited Joplin in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 storm, hailed the resilience of the community in the wake of devastating loss -- 161 killed, more than 8,000 homes and businesses destroyed, and more than $2.8 billion in damage.

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Over the past 12 months, Joplin has undertaken a massive clean-up and rebuilding effort that has slowly and steadily produced signs of healing, but challenges and scars remain.

The graduating class of high school students completed their studies in temporary classrooms set up at a local mall. The town’s hospital, St. John’s Regional Medical Center, and hundreds of family homes have yet to be rebuilt.

Meteorologists say the storm was one of the deadliest and most expensive in U.S. history.

But Obama made clear it was not the historic nature of the storm but a recovery effort marked by “kindness and generosity and quiet service” that would be the defining characteristic of the tragedy.

“You’ll remember that in a town of 50,000 people, nearly 50,000 more came to help in to help the weeks after the tornado -- perfect strangers who’ve never met you, and didn’t ask for anything in return,” Obama said.

“One man traveled all the way from Japan, because he remembered that Americans were there for his country after last year’s tsunami, and he wanted the chance he said to pay it forward,” he said.

The president acknowledged the thousands of Americans who came to the aid of Joplin, including AmeriCorps volunteers, a state college football team, even Hollywood stars Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, who made a $500,000 donation to rebuilding effort.

He also gave a nod to the United Arab Emirates, a U.S. ally in the Middle East, which provided new laptops for the city’s school and a $5 million donation to help rebuild a hospital.

“There are so many good people in the world.  There is such a decency, a bigness of spirit, in this country of ours,” Obama said. “So, Class of 2012, you’ve got to remember that.  Remember what people did here.  And like the man from Japan who came to Joplin, make sure in your own life that you pay it forward.”

President Obama also said the Joplin story has a message about the “power of community” to bridge divisions among people and achieve common goals.

“My deepest hope for all of you is that as you begin this new chapter in your life, you will bring that spirit of Joplin to every place you travel, to everything you do,” Obama told the graduates.

“You can serve as a reminder that we’re not meant to walk this road alone; that we’re not expected to face down adversity by ourselves.  We need God, we need each other,” he said, hinting at a message that has been a tagline of his re-election campaign.

“We’re important to each other,” he added. “And we’re stronger together than we are on our own.”

Obama exhorted the Class of 2012 to apply the same spirit underpinning a drive to rebuild Joplin to “help rebuild America.”

“America will only succeed if we all pitch in and pull together,” he said. “And I’m counting on you to be leaders in that effort. Because you are from Joplin, and you’ve already defied the odds.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar052012

Obama to Speak at Joplin High School Graduation

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will deliver the commencement address at the first high school graduation in Joplin, Mo., since a tornado nearly obliterated the town one year ago, killing 160 people.

Obama will travel to the still-recovering region to speak at Joplin High School on May 21, immediately after the G8 and NATO summits in Chicago, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer announced Monday via Twitter.

In the aftermath of last year’s storms, Obama flew to Joplin to tour the devastation and attend a memorial service, where he promised residents, “your country will be there with you every single step of the way.”

News of Obama’s planned return comes as the region was rocked by another string of unseasonably dangerous storms late last week and a weekend that left at least 39 dead across five states, just east of Missouri.

Obama will also deliver the commencement address at Barnard College in New York City on May 4, the school announced this weekend.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan202012

Joplin, Mo. Is Latest City to Benefit from 'Disaster Tourism'

Edwin Wilson, OETA(JOPLIN, Mo.) -- The tornado-ravaged city of Joplin, Mo., has come under fire for creating a tourist map of sites destroyed by last year's tornado, becoming the latest in a string of cities to grapple with the idea of "disaster tourism."

In New York City, for instance, the site of the World Trade Center attack now draws millions of visitors each year, and the surrounding neighborhood now has 18 hotels with more than 4,000 rooms -- up from the six hotels and 2,300 rooms it had before Sept. 11, 2001.  Similarly, multiple tour companies in New Orleans run special "Post-Katrina Tours" to show tourists the sites of the major destruction from the 2005 hurricane.

"There is a whole sort of subgenre of travel that is really sort of a sticky wicket of disaster and poverty tourism," said David Lytle, editorial director of Frommer's. "But approached in the right way, it is the idea of trying to understand the world, and it can be cathartic for people who only get a three-minute segment on TV and never get another understanding."

Patrick Tuttle, the director of the visitors bureau in Joplin, said that creating the map was a way to deal with visitors' questions and curiosities about the tragedy.

"We found that as the six-month point of this thing passed us, people in our restaurants and front desk people at hotels couldn't really answer questions to guests about the volume and the magnitude of the storm and the destruction," Tuttle said. "You know, 4,500 homes were destroyed, and so it became a tool to pull together facts so people confronting the tourist market could speak knowledgeably."

The map keeps travelers on main thoroughfares into and out of town, and discourages them from going into neighborhoods to gawk at destruction, Tuttle said.  The path they follow shows off the storm's unusually wide path and the breadth of the destruction, he said.

"This is living history.  It's now a part of Joplin's history.  We're just telling the story as to what happened here.  It's designed as an educational piece," Tuttle said.

In Joplin, New Orleans and New York, the educational value of promoting "disaster tourism" may have an added benefit: a faster economic recovery for the devastated area.  Joplin is at the crossroads of two major highways on the way to vacation destination Branson, Mo., which is situated on a lake in the Ozark mountains. And Joplin, said Tuttle, needed to keep its hotels and restaurants in business.

"These destinations do rely on tourism.  When there are accidents, natural or otherwise, in the media-absorbing consciousness of readers and viewers these destinations get written off and lose a lot of money, and it becomes very hard to recover quickly," Lytle said.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep082011

Reid Proposes $6 Billion Stand-Alone Disaster Aid Bill

Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Noting that the natural disasters have come “fast and furious” this summer, causing many Americans to suffer, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced Wednesday that he will propose a free-standing bill that would provide $6 billion in relief funds.

“I don’t see how we -- this great nation we have -- can stand on the sidelines while our people are suffering.  We should get relief to people when they need it,” Reid said, mentioning the damage in Joplin, Missouri, the effects of hurricanes Irene and Lee, and the recent earthquake in Virginia.

The money for the bill would come from the Homeland Security appropriations bill, Reid said.

“We need to get this relief funding to the American people as quickly as we can,” he said.  “And we’re going to do that.”

Reid took a swipe at some of his Republican colleagues, most notably House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, who early on said that any relief funds needed to be offset by cuts to other parts of the federal budget.

“Some of my Republican colleagues are trying to -- I was going to say something that was vulgar, and I’m not going to do that -- are trying to cater to the Tea Party by holding up relief efforts.  For example, Rep. Cantor suggested that we should hold up disaster relief to meet the Tea Party’s demands.  Fortunately, all Republicans don’t agree,” Reid said.

Cantor, who last month insisted that any new money for federal disaster relief be offset by spending cuts, issued a written statement on Wednesday regarding Reid’s stand-alone disaster assistance bill.  Cantor said he’s waiting for a specific request from President Obama and is awaiting details of Reid’s request.

“The House will act on a request for such disaster assistance as soon as it is made by President Obama,” Cantor said.  “Though details remain vague, it is being reported that Majority Leader Reid plans to move an unprecedented stand-alone measure that includes up to $7 billion in FEMA disaster funds for next year in the coming weeks.  I would ask Leader Reid to provide members of the House with the details of his request and a breakdown of what immediate funding is needed for each of the specific disaster areas listed above, so that the House can appropriately act on any legislation passed by the Senate.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug172011

Joplin, Mo., Students Return to School Three Months After Deadly Tornado

Students return to Joplin High School Aug. 17, just three months after a deadly tornado struck the Missouri town. Photo by Seni Tienabeso/ABC News(JOPLIN, Mo.) -- For a town desperately seeking a return to some sense of normalcy, the ringing of school bells is more welcome than even the high-tech gifts being handed to many of Joplin's students on their first day back in school.

"You can judge a community by the way it takes care of its kids," said C.J. Huff, a Joplin schools superintendent. "We take care of our kids. Every student in ninth- through 12th-grade will have a computer on their first day."

Huff is somewhat of a hero in this Missouri town, which is still coping from the aftermath of one of the deadliest tornadoes in U.S history. The twister obliterated a third of the community and killed 160 people in a matter of minutes.

Two days after the May storm, he promised that school would be back in session Aug. 17 as originally scheduled, despite the destruction or damage to the main high school and nine other schools.

"Did you think this would be possible three months ago?" ABC News' David Muir asked. "Yes," Huff said emphatically.

The laptops, which were donated by a generous gift from the United Arab Emirates, will greet each high school student when they return to their school, which was once a department store in a local mall.

The school system has been able to match donors with every student. Even teachers have been adopted. The teaching tools that built up during the years and were simply thrown to the wind have been replaced by generosity from all corners.

In Kelsey Norman Elementary, the halls were filled with smiling faces as its young greeted fellow classmates and teachers for the first time since their last school year was cut abruptly short.

"It's nice to see everyone walking through the halls smiling," said Natalie Gonzalez, standing next to Augie Ward, her 9-year-old son, who was hit with flying debris as he cowered with his mother in their bathroom during the storm but survived because he was wearing a bike helmet. "He hasn't seen his best friend all summer. It's needed."

As Augie goes through a book bag filled with donated notebooks, markers and crayons, as well as a paper bag stuffed with the things he had to abandon last school year, his mom, who is still recovering from a broken vertebrae, reflects on their new life as one of Joplin's displaced.

"It's just scars now," she said. "It's nice to see the school open. Everything seems normal again, a little bit. We might not live in this neighborhood right now but at least we can come back and be a part of it."

Like so many displaced by the storm, this family has had to leave Joplin because of a lack of homes. But the school system, which lost seven students and one staff member, is encouraging all of its own both near and far to return in an effort to get its students back on track.

There are many hurdles left for Joplin's students and staff, such as the bigger issues including trauma, to the smaller but not mundane like how to do a tornado drill.

But for a community that lost so much in minutes, the overwhelming message to the outside world is one of gratitude to those across the country and around the world who helped them achieve the seemingly unbelievable task of starting school on time.

"What goes around comes around," special education teacher Carla Sheets said. "Someday, if it's somebody else's turn, we will be there for them. That's what we believe here in Joplin."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug172011

Tornado-Scarred Joplin, Mo., Students Return to School

Edwin Wilson, OETA(JOPLIN, Mo.) -- For a town desperately seeking a return to some sense of normalcy, the ringing of school bells is more welcome than even the high-tech gifts being handed to many of Joplin's students on their first day back in school.

"You can judge a community by the way it takes care of its kids," said C.J. Huff, a Joplin schools superintendent. "We take care of our kids. Every student in ninth- through 12th-grade will have a computer on their first day."

Huff is somewhat of a hero in this Missouri town, which is still coping from the aftermath of one of the deadliest tornadoes in U.S history. The twister obliterated a third of the community and killed 159 people in a matter of minutes.

Two days after the May storm, he promised that school would be back in session Aug. 17 as originally scheduled, despite the destruction or damage to the main high school and nine other schools.

"Did you think this would be possible three months ago," ABC News' David Muir asked? "Yes," Huff said emphatically.

In Kelsey Norman Elementary, the halls were filled with smiling faces as its young greeted fellow classmates and teachers for the first time since their last school year was cut abruptly short.

"It's nice to see everyone walking through the halls smiling," said Natalie Gonzalez, standing next to Augie Ward, her 9-year-old son, who was hit with flying debris as he cowered with his mother in their bathroom during the storm. Augie survived because he was wearing a bike helmet. "He hasn't seen his best friend all summer," said Gonzalez. "It's needed."

As Augie goes through a book bag filled with donated notebooks, markers and crayons, as well as a paper bag stuffed with the things he had to abandon last school year, his mom, who is still recovering from a broken vertebrae, reflects on their new life as one of Joplin's displaced.

"It's just scars now," she said. "It's nice to see the school open. Everything seems normal again, a little bit. We might not live in this neighborhood right now but at least we can come back and be a part of it."

Like so many displaced by the storm, this family has had to leave Joplin because of a lack of homes. But the school system, which lost seven students and one staff member, is encouraging all of its own both near and far to return in an effort to get its students back on track.

There are many hurdles left for Joplin's students and staff, such as the bigger issues including psychological trauma, to the smaller but not mundane -- like how to act during a tornado drill.

But for a community that lost so much in minutes, the overwhelming message to the outside world is one of gratitude to those across the country and around the world who helped them achieve the seemingly unbelievable task of starting school on time.

"What goes around comes around," special education teacher Carla Sheets said. "Someday, if it's somebody else's turn, we will be there for them. That's what we believe here in Joplin."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug102011

Arab State Comes to Aid of Joplin, Missouri Students

Julie Denesha/Getty Images(JOPLIN, Mo.) -- Help can come from the least-expected places, as teens from tornado-ravaged Joplin, Missouri have found out.

Though still battered from the monster twister last May that left more than 150 people dead and a third of the town in ruins, Joplin High School will be session in just a few weeks.  Classes for freshmen and sophomores will be held inside an abandoned school building that wasn't leveled, while the upperclassmen are being moved to a former big-box store near the local mall.

Juniors and seniors might complain about the new surroundings but they certainly won't be able to gripe about the study aids they'll receive -- courtesy of a $1 million gift made by the United Arab Emirates.

Each student will receive a new Apple notebook computer to help with their lessons.  The UAE made the cash donation for that purpose after learning how the tornado devastated the Joplin school system.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun102011

Aggressive Fungal Infection Striking Joplin Victims

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(JOPLIN, Mo.) -- At least eight victims of the tornado in Joplin have become ill with suspected fungal infections, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Three of those people died, although the Jasper County coroner said so far, only one victim is believed to have died directly as a result of the fungal infection. The other two victims, who died in a neighboring county, endured other injuries or had other medical conditions that could have contributed to their deaths.

Dr. Uwe Schmidt, a specialist in infectious diseases at Freeman Health System in Joplin, said he has treated five patients with an invasive fungal infection known as zygomycosis, which they likely contracted from contact with decaying soil or debris.

This diagnosis has not yet been confirmed, however. Samples were sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for testing.

Schmidt said the patients were admitted on May 23, and the staff started noticing mold growing out of their wounds one week later.

"These people had multiple severe lacerations and wound infections," Schmidt said. "Biopsies indicated tissue invasion by a fungus." In some cases, damage to the tissues is severe.

The fungi that cause zygomycosis, also known as mucormycosis, are found in soil almost everywhere.

"Under normal circumstances, they very rarely cause human disease," said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. "The only people who usually get infected with these fungi are people who are immunocompromised."

"People with normal immune systems are only at risk with overwhelming exposure or with significant trauma," said Dr. Michele Morris, clinical chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

The tornado that ripped through Joplin provided the perfect opportunity for the fungi to enter the body through open wounds, Schaffner said.

In some cases, the fungus can spread into the blood and cut off blood supply and then invade the internal organs, but that hasn't happened to any of Schmidt's patients yet.

Mucormycosis is also often seen in patients with very severe, uncontrolled diabetes. It can cause infection of the sinuses and brain.

The infection doesn't spread from person to person and does not invade normal, intact skin.

Morris said treatment generally includes antifungal medications and surgical removal of dead tissue. Keeping wounds very clean is another key component of treatment.

Doctors say it's very important for people who do have wounds to keep a close eye on them.

"If they have wounds which they suffered during the tornado that aren't healing and are getting worse with increasing redness, swelling or tissue necrosis, they should be evaluated by a physician and should be biopsied," said Schmidt.

They also stress there isn't a need to panic.

"This is not an infection likely to spread through any population," said Morris.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun022011

Joplin Tornado Death Toll Ticks Higher

Edwin Wilson, OETA(JOPLIN, Mo.) -- Officials on Thursday said three more people have died after a tornado tore through Joplin, Mo., last week.

Earlier in the day, the Missouri Department of Public Safety announced that four people had died, bringing the death toll to 138 people, but they later revised that number, noting that one of the deaths was unrelated to injuries sustained during the storm.

Officials on Wednesday announced that everyone previously considered missing were now accounted for.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun022011

Missouri Accounts for All of Joplin's Missing Persons

Julie Denesha/Getty Images(JOPLIN, Mo.) -- Ten days after a monstrous tornado tore through the city of Joplin, Missouri, state officials now say that their grim task of trying to find unaccounted-for residents is over.

According to the Missouri Department of Public Safety, all those reported as missing have either been found or confirmed as dead.

Initially, there were reports of as many as 1,300 missing persons after the twister that struck Joplin on May 22, prompting Gov. Jay Nixon to order both the Department of Public Safety and Missouri State Highway Patrol Troopers to conduct a search for unaccounted-for individuals.

Eventually, that figure was reduced to 268 missing persons, with 144 people found alive and 128 confirmed as deceased, and their next of kin notified of their passing.

Gov. Nixon praised the state agencies involved in the search for their "outstanding professionalism and dedication in carrying out the vital mission of locating every individual who was unaccounted for after the storm."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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