Residents of Joplin, Missouri awoke Tuesday morning with memories still fresh in their minds of the deadly twister that struck their city one year ago.
A year after a massive tornado descended on Joplin and blotted out the setting sun, the city awoke Tuesday to bright sunshine as it began a day of solemn remembrance of that tragic spring night in which hundreds were killed or injured.
"It is so fitting to begin this day, this anniversary, by reflecting on our faith as dawn breaks over a renewed Joplin," Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said at a sunrise service at Freeman Hospital to honor the tornado survivors, medical workers and volunteers who aided the recovery. "Scripture tells us that the path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day."
The hospital has seen a surge in use because the tornado destroyed St. John's Regional Medical Center, which has since occupied a succession of temporary facilities but is being rebuilt at a new location — and renamed as Mercy Hospital Joplin.
The May 22, 2011, twister was the nation's deadliest in six decades, killing 161 people, injuring hundreds more and destroying thousands of buildings, including the city's only public high school. Groundbreaking ceremonies are scheduled at three sites for replacement buildings, including Joplin High School's future home.
A 4-mile unity walk through some of the city's hardest hit neighborhoods begins at 2 p.m. in neighboring Duquesne, where more than one-fourth of the community's 750 homes were destroyed and nine people died. The Joplin portion of the walk begins past a Wal-Mart where 200 people survived the storm by huddling together in employee break rooms, bathrooms and other designated safe zones. Three people, though, were killed inside that store.
The walk will conclude with a moment of silence at Cunningham Park at 5:41 p.m., the precise time when the EF-5 tornado packing 200 mph winds hit Joplin. The city park, which is across the street from the hulking remains of the St. John's hospital, has since been rebuilt.