JOPLIN, Mo. On May 22, 2011, we had our clearest example of how deadly Midwest weather can be. Almost five years later, those who survived the storm that day, cannot forget it.. nor should we.
What an EF5 tornado can do in a few minutes, not even five years can erase.
We recently traveled to Joplin to speak with Dr. Sean Smith, one of the emergency doctors who saw the worst of what that tornado did.
"We took care of a couple hundred people on the basketball court. And that started about a 96 hour bad day," says Dr. Smith.
While the world gasped at what the violent wind did to metal cars and brick buildings. Dr. Smith was dealing with what it was doing to the soft, vulnerable body. Dr. Smith says, "from minor abrasions and lacerations to impalements and dismemberments the extremities, you know gone."
His hospital, gone.
"Kind of like practicing 1920's medicine, we didn't have much to work with that night," adds Dr. Smith.
A reflection area is all the stands where Mercy Joplin was.
"Our community has come together, and we're stronger," says Dr. Smith.
161 lives gone.
Dr. Smith adds, "It's probably the worse I can imagine being a part of, and it's probably the worst I've ever been a part of, by far."
But the memories of that day, that time, what happened will never be gone.
"There's days, that almost seem like, was that real. It seems almost surreal at this point, but I hope people take heed. We don't need another loss on that scale, and another 8,000 homes and buildings destroyed, and lose 160 people, you know, for people to realize, you know, this is real."
Of the people who died that day in Joplin, more than half, 54%, were inside their homes when they were killed. The city considered requiring all new homes in Joplin to have a basement, but settled on making sure they have “hurricane ties” or other fasteners which secure homes to their foundations.