Mission: Joplin – Is There Hope For The Future?

By Stewart McKenzie, CBS 11 News
joplin Mission: Joplin   Is There Hope For The Future?

A group of people from churches in Fort Worth, Keller and Bedford left North Texas on June 27, 2011 to help with volunteer efforts in Joplin, Missouri, after a deadly tornado moved through on May 22, 2011. (credit: Stewart McKenzie/KTVT/KTXA)

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – It was after 8:00 p.m. on Sunday evening, May 22, when I started getting indications that something disastrous had taken place. I noticed a Facebook posting that said, “Please keep Joplin in your thoughts and prayers.” My brother guided me to a YouTube link of some of the first stormchaser and broadcast video from Joplin, in southwest Missouri. When I saw those images, I knew that a devastating tornado had hit the city of more than 50,000 people.

You don’t forget pictures like a mangled medical helicopter — that had been tossed by tornado-force winds — resting in front of a heavily damaged hospital.

It became apparent that this was a killer storm. It was an EF-5 tornado, the strongest tornado that meteorologists measure. The National Weather Service said that the winds from the tornado exceeded 200 mph. The death toll climbed to 158 people, making it the deadliest tornado in the United States since the National Weather Service began keeping such records in 1950. More than 1,000 people were hurt.

The National Weather Service said that the tornado was three-fourths of a mile wide and was on the ground for six miles. One-third of the city was destroyed.

In the days and weeks after the storm, there has been an outpouring of national support. It is estimated that more than 40,000 people from across the country have traveled to Joplin to help with disaster relief efforts. And North Texans continue to respond to the call for help.

This week, 67 people from four churches in Fort Worth, Bedford and Keller will travel to Joplin. Adults and teenagers from the congregations are volunteering their time to help with the ongoing efforts. The process of tearing down houses, picking up debris and distributing supplies is still underway. However, we have been told that the rebuilding phase has started. Homes that were damaged, but still standing after the tornado, are in line for roof and drywall work.

The days will be long for volunteers. Breakfast is at 6:00 a.m. We will be at our assigned to work sites from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. And the weather will be a challenge. The forecast calls for high temperatures, most of the week, in the mid 90s. It will be humid.

As I have prepared for this trip, I have wondered what it will be like to walk down streets that, earlier this spring, were vibrant neighborhoods. Do the images that we see on TV compare to witnessing the damage first hand? The weather aspect fascinates me, since I have a broadcast meteorology degree.

But the focus of this mission will be on the people. How are the residents of Joplin holding up more than a month after the storm? Is there hope? Or is there so much destruction in front of them that the people of Joplin find it hard to look towards the future?

Can volunteers help provide that hope for Joplin? What about the men, women and young people who are volunteering? Are we prepared for what we will see once we cross into the city limits of Joplin?

It is my hope that we will have internet access while in Joplin this week, to provide daily reports and pictures about the relief efforts. I hope you will come back on Tuesday as we get our first look at the work that is ahead for volunteers and the residents of Joplin.

(Note: Stewart McKenzie is the 6:00 p.m. producer for CBS 11 News. He is part of a local volunteer group traveling to Joplin this week to help with the relief efforts. While helping with those efforts, he will also provide reports on the work that is underway and the people of Joplin who are recovering from a killer tornado.)


One Comment

  1. Kroten says:

    Mr. MCkenzie, I was in Joplin on the 6th and 7th of June. I assure you there is no real way to prepare yourself to see the devastation that took place there. I also assure you that you and the other volunteers will have a whole new perspective on life and what is important when you return.

    My experience the few days I was in Joplin was that most were still in shock, lots of folks were confused about what they should be doing to help the city clean up and almost everyone wanted to talk about what had happened and where they were.

    By this time I am sure a lot of work has been done. Electricity is probably completely resorted by now. The electric company there was working at warp speed. The trash trucks were running up and down the street picking up debris from the sidewalks, and people were bringing trash to the curb in piles. However, it will take a long time for the people of Joplin to get back on their feet. I am glad to see groups of volunteers still going to the city. My biggest fear was that two or three months after the storm people would forget and the city would be back to working on its own.

    You guys will have a great trip and you will be very blessed for what you are about to do. Thanks for your volunteer service.

    Be safe, your team will be in my prayers,


  2. Cammy B says:

    I look forward to reading your updates. My daughter is there with the Keller, Tx group.

  3. Agnes Burnett says:

    As a member of the Keller Church of Christ, I am so proud of our youth group for taking their summer time to help in Joplin. Special thanks to the youth minister, Kevin Langford.

  4. Denise Wall says:

    I am very proud of my daughter and son who are with Bedford church of Christ and the entire group within that are donating their summer vacation to help others. We are very blessed to have a youth minister at Bedford that will help guide and direct our children.

    God bless you Spencer Ross,
    Brian & Denise Wall

  5. Earl Armstrong says:


    Thank you, both young and old who. through their respective congregations, are taking time from their own lives to help the devastated people in Joplin. I’m sure any and all help is appreciated. As I read what you eyes are seeing, it is hard to imagine the trauma they must be going through. The 4th of July is coming up and I hope it reminds us all of how unselfish and sympthetic many Americans can be and what a great country we live in. The true value of what you’re doing will not be measured in dollars and cents, but only in return gratitude felt for those who are able to put a shoulder to the work. May God bless you and keep you all from any harm or sickness.

    Earl & Pat Armstrong

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