The Joplin Tornado….Putting Life in Perspective

As most of my Dad’s side of the family is from, and still reside in Joplin, Missouri, it really makes me think about the silly things in life that I focus on after seeing all the devastation there from the recent tornado that hit May 22, 2011.  We were extremely lucky that all our relatives survived, but there are so many that lost their belongings, memories, and lives with this horrible tragedy.  Seeing the destruction this F5 tornado did to Joplin is just astounding.  All the shops and hotels we stayed at every year for the past 35 plus years were wiped out in minutes.  That really makes one think about what is really important in life.  Everything you own and cherish can be taken away from you in the blink of an eye.  How important is our “stuff” really?  How important are the little things in life we let get us upset (and at the time seem like the end of the world)?

(Before the tornado)                                    (After the tornado)

The truly important things in life are your health, your family, and your friends.  I’m not saying it’s bad to like your “stuff” or to want more of it, but that “stuff” is not as important as the relationships you make and have with others, or the way you take care of yourself mentally and physically.  So please take a moment and remember what you DO have instead of what is going wrong in your life at the moment and what you DON’T have.  Think of all that others have lost, and be thankful for how blessed your life is right now.  Below I will list a few stories of people from the Joplin tornado that have had an impact on me as I’ve been following the stories of people who lost their lives during this tragic event.

Will Norton (18 years old, recent graduate of Joplin High School)

Will Norton was a super talented young man ready to begin his life after his graduation from Joplin High School.  He died on the way home from his commencement ceremony as he was either thrown from or sucked through the sunroof of his Hummer H3.  He had been making youtube videos for a few years, and he was a talented individual who already had a fan base  following.  I feel for him and his family, and I’m sad for the talent we will never see develop from him in the future (he was looking into film-making/acting).  I’m sure he would have gone on to do great things.  Here is a post from Will on youtube titled “I Nearly Died,” where he talks about a terrible storm in Joplin that he survived.

Christopher Lucas (27 years old, Assistant Manager at the Rangeline Pizza Hut)

Christopher Lucas was not only the Assistant Manager at the Pizza Hut that got demolished on Rangeline Road in Joplin, but he was also a hero to many.  He saved many others as he put them in the freezer for protection from the tornado and sacrificed himself as the door would not shut and it needed someone to hold it shut.  He was brave and unselfish.  I pray for him and his family during this difficult time.  He was a young father of two kids.  More on his heroic story here!

Donald Lansaw Jr. (31 years old, devoted husband)

Don Lansaw was a devoted husband who lost his life using his body as a human shield for his wife.  He covered his body over hers as she laid in the bathtub with a pillow over her face.  He was a true hero to her, and his family will remember him for the sacrifice he made.  He and his family are in my thoughts and prayers.  Here is a video clip of his wife Bethany.

Russell (29 years old), Harli (5 years old), and Hayze (19 months) Howard

Russell Howard and his two kids were at the Home Depot in Joplin, Missouri.  His wife Edie, who is the only surviving member of their family unit, is in my constant thoughts and prayers.  So sad to lose little ones just starting their journey in this life.  Pictures below of the before and after of the Home Depot in Joplin:




Please cherish all you have each and every day.  As of June 5, 2011, 141 people were found killed in this tornado, which was the deadliest tornado since 1947.  Remember all you have and possibly even think about what you can do to help others in need.

If you want to read other stories of those that lost their lives, I have been following “In Memory of Joplin, MO Tornado Victims 5/22/2011” on Facebook.  They post pictures and stories as they come in from the loved ones of the victims.

*  Do you have any ties to Joplin or stories to share from the Joplin tornado?  What is most important to you in your life?

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Kristin Wheeler

About Kristin Wheeler

Kristin Wheeler is a stay-at-home mom of a 7 year old daughter and 4 year old son. She was previously a teacher for 8 years (in Virginia, Oklahoma, and California). She taught elementary and middle school, with a focus in technology. Kristin received her Bachelor's degree in Psychology and her Master's in Middle School Education from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. Her husband is a professor at The University of Rhode Island.