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Mission Joplin: The End And The Beginning

By Stewart McKenzie, CBS 11 News
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photo4 e1309407267640 Mission Joplin: The End And The Beginning

JOPLIN, Mo. (CBSDFW.COM) – More than 8,000 houses, businesses and structures were either damaged or destroyed during the Joplin, Missouri, tornado on May 22.  Nearly six weeks after the storm, the cleanup continues.

The sound of chainsaws, backhoes and trash trucks echo through the neighborhoods that are still standing.

65 adult and teen volunteers from Tarrant County churches have fanned out across the area on various work assignments.  One group was assigned the task of demolishing the first floor of a three story house in the Sunset Acres section of Joplin.  The neighborhood is where the tornado first touched down in Joplin.

In this neighborhood, some houses had the roof peeled off.  Other houses were not as fortunate.

Across the street from the group’s work assignment stood the house belonging to the Satterlee family.  The house had visible roof damage and windows were blown out.  The house was still standing and intact.

The work group broke for lunch.  When they came back to continue their assignment in the afternoon, a backhoe was across the street and tearing down the Satterlee’s house.  Shannon Satterlee was standing watch and taking some final pictures of the family home.

“It’s a house.  It was four walls and a ceiling,” reflected Satterlee.

OUR HOUSE IS GONE

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Shannon Satterlee (Credit: Stewart McKenzie)

Shannon Satterlee remembers May 22nd for more than the tornado.  She was getting ready to celebrate her son’s 11th birthday.

Her son, husband and six other relatives and friends had already gathered at the house when the storm hit.

They took shelter in the basement.

“Just as we shut the door you can see things breaking and coming in on us.  And our ears were pop, pop and it hurt.  Everyone talks about the roar, but I couldn’t hear it because it popped so badly,” described Satterlee.

After a few minutes, Shannon could still hear noises upstairs.

“My husband looked at me and he said, ‘I’m going to go look’.  And he came back down and was like, our house is gone.  And I was like no!”

Everyone was alive.  They had escaped the wrath of the EF-5 tornado.

IT’S A BITTERSWEET FEELING

Nearly six weeks after the tornado left its devastating mark on Joplin, the house was demolished on Wednesday.  While the house had some damage on the outside, Satterlee explained the tornado-force wind had caused too much structural damage.

“It’s a bittersweet feeling to watch it come down,” Satterlee reflected.

“At the same time, this was the house that kept us safe.”

Satterlee stood by and watched the house her family had called home for seven years come down in about an hour.  The good memories mixed with the day the storm hit and the day the house was torn down.

“When this bulldozer punched through the house it was so reminiscent of the sounds we heard that night, landing and falling on us and it was pitch, pitch dark,” Satterlee explained.

The family is staying in another house in the Joplin area while they decide what to do next.

While Shannon lost her house, she thanks God that her family can begin the next phase of their lives together.

“It’s a house.  I haven’t lost any of my family.”

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

MORE: Mission Joplin: The Journey That Changed Lives
MORE: Mission Joplin: Is There Hope For The Future
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