Monday, June 6, 2011

Joplin's heroes remembered: A city mourns those who lost their lives helping others in America's deadliest tornado for six decades - 6th June 2011

They were regular churchgoers, devoted parents, seniors in their retirement years and children with untold promise.

Some gave their lives to save strangers, thrust by circumstance and human instinct into the role of hero.

Others faced a parent's worst fear, losing their lives while also failing to protect their children from death.

Few outside the town of about 50,000 will recognise the names of the dead. But, as three more deaths brought the toll to 141 today, Joplin's close-knit community remembers how it lost a staggering array of human capital in the May 22 tornado, including seniors who were the town's history and young people who were its future.

Some lived their lives ordinarily, only to be defined in their final moments by breathtaking courage.

'I don't know how you put it in context,' said Ron Sampson, executive director of Joplin Workshop Inc, where three employees – lifelong friends with Down syndrome – died when their Iowa Street home was destroyed.

'Between the physical destruction and the loss of life, it's so overwhelming. Everybody is still in a fog.'

Thirteen children died, including several students at Joplin High School, which was flattened. Two pairs of siblings were killed, and five children perished alongside a parent who also died.

Familiar faces at the cell phone store and 15th Street Walmart, three Elks Lodge members who attended weekly bingo games, and three Harmony Heights Baptist Church worshippers didn't survive the Sunday afternoon twister, the nation's deadliest single tornado in six decades.

Some were praised by name by Barack Obama in a presidential visit one week later, while others died anonymously. Read More