Joplin: 6 months later after tornado

JOPLIN, Mo. - Tuesday marked six months since an EF-5 tornado tore through the town of Joplin, Mo., changing it forever.

Homes were crumbled and more than 150 people lost their lives, but the devastation hasn't stopped the community from moving forward.

Despite undergoing a huge loss, the people of Joplin continue to hold on to hope for the future.

Alisha Brigance is one of them.  She's in the process of rebuilding her home.

"Master bedroom here, our closet and the master bathroom," she said.

Brigance was happy to take us on a tour of her new home on a recent visit to Joplin.

"The two things that I asked for is I wanted a big kitchen and a laundry room no longer in my garage," she said with a laugh.

On May 22, Brigance was enjoying a cook out with her family moments before the twister blew through her neighborhood.  They took cover in a closet.  When they resurfaced, there was nothing left.

"When we were digging through the rubble, we found our neighbor's roof in our house," she said.

Since the storm, Brigance, her husband and their twins have been staying at a nearby family farm, but she's visited her property every day, watching the construction.

"I kind of told the guys, 'Just ignore me, I'm just here'," she said.  "This is kind of actually where I, funny as it sounds, where I feel at peace, kind of comfortable."

Brigance and her family are set to move into their new home by Christmas, with an additional 400 square feet as well as a safe room, something they didn't have before the twister.

With the help of construction crews and volunteers, rebuilding efforts are well under way along the path of the tornado.

Pastor Sue Petro is with a church group all the way from Grand Rapids, Mich.  She hadn't been to Joplin before the tornado but this isn't the first disaster that's called her across the country.

"First trip to Joplin, before that we had a five-year stint in New Orleans," she said.

Petro's group came to work, and they're just a few of the thousands of volunteers who remain in Joplin six months after the storm.

"It's pretty amazing, and the sense of community and people pulling together is really inspiring," said Petro.

Debris removal is complete.  Now the city is in demolition mode.

Hundreds of lots around town have been cleared and leveled, but despite all the work that remains ahead, Mayor Mike Woolston hopes to see faster progress in the coming months.

"I thought we would have the majority of our housing stock rebuilt within about a year," said Woolston.  "I think now it's probably going to be a year and a half to two years."

Woolston says city leaders are talking with residents about how they want the community to look.  Those decisions, Woolston says, are critical to Joplin's future.

"We're looking at how one might put commercial properties along a street and then a buffer of multi-family dwellings next to that," said Woolston.  "And then single family residential next to that."

Right now, the families who will eventually call those properties home are living in FEMA trailers.

FEMA is reporting that 88 percent of the residents who were displaced by the storm are still within 25 miles of Joplin.

Woolston says that number is promising, indicating many will return to the city that is being rebuilt from the ground up.

With hope for the future, Joplin is a community that has lost so much but remains thankful for so much more.

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