Many of the columns I have written for the Newton County News over the past year have been connected to the tornado that destroyed one-third of Joplin on May 22, 2011.
Since the school where I teach, East Middle School, was one of those lost to the storm, I have written about the adjustments students (and teachers) have had to make to being in what had been intended to be a spec building in an industrial park.
Some of my columns have centered on other aspects of the tornado and recovery, and as many of you have noted to me over the past several weeks, there have been times when I have not even had a column in the newspaper.
For that, I apologize. One of the reasons for my being inconsistent with my columns has been another project I have been working on for the past several months and which, barring any unforeseen problems, will be available next week.
John Hacker and I co-authored the book 5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado, which was published in August. That book, many have told us, has been a difficult read, not because of how it was written, but because of the depressing topic.
Some of the stories in our new book, Spirit of Hope: The Year After the Joplin Tornado, fall into the same category, but there is a different feel to this book and not just because it comes in at 400 pages, or nearly double the length of 5:41.
The book includes the following:
-A number of tornado stories written by the survivors, including first person accounts of what happened at Wal-Mart, International House of Pancakes, and Fastrip.
-Follow-ups on what has happened with some of those who contributed stories for the first book.
-John Hacker’s first person account of arriving in Joplin after the tornado, and his coverage of the major events that have taken place since then, including the Day of Unity, the Joplin High School Prom, the Six-Month Observance, outdoor services at Peace Lutheran Church the week after the tornado and one year later and the 9-11 observance,.
-My stories on the Joplin Schools Family Get-Together when Superintendent C. J. Huff promised that school would open on time, the first day of school, the high school graduation, the death of Joplin High School graduate Will Norton., as well as the destruction of the apartment complex behind the 15th Street Wal-Mart. These stories include interviews with Mark Norton, Will Norton’s father, and Terry Lucas, father of Pizza Hut hero Chris Lucas.
-Hacker’s extensive coverage of what has happened to Joplin area hospitals since the tornado
-Photos from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Habitat for Humanity builds.
-Transcripts of important speeches, including those given by President Obama, Gov. Nixon, and Pastor Aaron Brown at the Joplin Tornado Memorial Service, those given by the governor and C. J. Huff when school staff returned, City Manager Mark Rohr’s speeches at the six-month anniversary and on the Day of Unity, Rush Limbaugh’s July 4th speech, and the speeches given by the president and the governor at the high school graduation
Those contributing to the book, in addition to John Hacker and me, include the following:
-Rebecca Williams of Neosho, who talks about the beginning of the invaluable Joplin Tornado Information website
-Diamond High School graduate Gary Harrall, who contributed a chapter in the first book and offers an update
-Brennan Stebbins, one of those who was in the Fastrip store, the spot of one of the first videos from the tornado to go viral
-Former area news reporter Rick Nichols, who offers a first person look at the tornado hitting IHOP
-Rose Fogarty of St. Louis, who has been heavily involved in the recovery effort with her St. Lou Crew for Joplin
-Amy Gilbert, Joplin, whose family lost its home. She offers an update and tells about her daughters representing Joplin onstage during the annual Country Music Association Awards.
-Contributions from Joplin residents or former Joplin residents Andrea Thomas, Andrea Queen, Jeff Wells, Marty Oetting, Laela Zaidi, Becky Kropf, Chris Robinson, Jennifer Nguyen, Amy Herron, Mary Jean Miller, Denton Williams, Micaela Tennis, Karissa Dowell, and Bill Pape.
-The complete text of the final National Weather Service report on the tornado and the Center for Disease Control report on the fungus which affected many tornado victims.
For those of you in this newspaper’s reading area, the book can be ordered through the Newton County News. We also plan to have retail outlets available in the near future. Of course, it will also be available online through the book’s website and through Amazon.com.