Not long ago, we were preparing for my son’s Birthday party and I was in the garage with my husband while we filled helium balloons for all of the kids.  My job was to cut the string to tie to the balloons.  While standing there, I noticed this uniquely woven belt with bright colors hanging neatly over some tool bins next to the helium tank.  I had never noticed the dirty and tattered belt before, so I asked him, “where did this belt come from?”  Having traveled to many places over the years including Afghanistan, Sweden, Germany, along with many places in the US, he replied “I picked it up along the way in my travels.”  It was a strange response for him. Normally he’ll tell the story behind something he’s picked up along the way, in fact when he had been to Afghanistan, he told me stories of many young children who sold him some unique gifts. I found it strange, so I tried joking with him about it guessing a few people it may have belonged to, all the while truly having no idea, then he responded “it belonged to a little girl in Joplin,” a little girl, who unfortunately died in the wreckage of one of the deadliest tornadoes in US history, May 22, 2011.

IMG_6209photo: school destroyed by the Joplin Tornado. 


That hot and humid that afternoon in May; families had been to church, many had been enjoying a relaxing day before the workweek was set to begin; some were enjoying an afternoon nap, while others were busy working at the local hospital or delivering pizzas.  It seemed like a typical Sunday afternoon in the smaller town of Joplin, Missouri, a town with a little over 50,000 people.

For local residents, tornado warnings are a regular occurrence in spring and summer, and that Sunday felt like many others, but what Mother Nature had in store was tragically different.  A little after 3pm, thunderstorm warnings began infiltrating television stations, followed by tornado watches, and multiple tornado warnings.   Several funnel clouds were spotted in the surrounding areas, and at 5:41 an EF-5 tornado touched the ground just outside Joplin. The raging tornado was a mile wide and moved at a speed 35-40 miles per hour; with winds between 225-250 miles per hour it flattened 25% of the city.

IMG_6213photo: a neighborhood destroyed

Response teams immediately began filtering into the city to search for people who were missing, dig through the wreckage to pull people from under their homes, and bring supplies for the displaced families who lost everything.  Doctors, nurses, and EMT’s from all over the nation came to aid the community knowing the local hospital was destroyed and an injured community awaited aide.

IMG_6197photo: the hospital in Joplin following the tornado in 2011

There are so many tragic stories surrounding this awful disaster, surrounding every disaster.  There are heroic stories where people came together to rescue those trapped by debris.  There are miraculous stories of survival.  All of which are solid reminders that disaster can strike anywhere, for anyone, at any time.

 Story by: F. Jackson, wife of a first responder

Reach Out Worldwide’s goal, as a team of first responders, is to help communities prepare for the threats disasters pose, educating and providing ways that each of you can best protect your families in the event that you are faced with a disaster situation.

We have been providing survival kit tips and survival plan ideas for you for several months on our Twitter and Facebook pages, and we will continue to post weekly tips. We also want to do more by increasing awareness and sharing the tips in a centralized location, easy for you to access. This will mark the first blog in a series of blogs to begin to layout more detailed plans, which we hope will help you to prepare survival plans for yourselves/families.


One thought on “Gone

  1. I remember when this tornado happened.  All of ROWW’S survival tips are extremely helpful and I have been forwarding all tips to family, friends, and co-workers.  Thanks for all that you do!   JoJo


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