A massive tornado that tore a 6-mile path across southwestern Missouri killed at least 89 people as it slammed into the city of Joplin Sunday, May 22, 2011.
“You see pictures of World War II, the devastation and all that with the bombing. That’s really what it looked like,” said Kerry Sachetta, the principal of a flattened Joplin High School. “I couldn’t even make out the side of the building. It was total devastation in my view. I just couldn’t believe what I saw.”
Much of the city’s south side was leveled, with churches, schools, businesses and homes reduced to ruins. Fire chief Mitch Randles estimated 25 percent to 30 percent of the city was damaged, and said his own home was among the buildings destroyed as the twister swept through this city of about 50,000 people some 160 miles south of Kansas City.
Among the worst-hit locations in Joplin was St. John’s Regional Medical Center. The staff had just a few moments’ notice to hustle patients into hallways before the storm struck the nine-story building, blowing out hundreds of windows and leaving the facility useless.
There was a loud huffing noise, my windows started popping. I had to get downstairs, glass was flying. I opened a closet and pulled myself into it,”
“There were people wandering the streets, all mud-covered,” he said. “I’m talking to them, asking if they knew where their family is. Some of them didn’t know, and weren’t sure where they were. All the street markers were gone.”
“Our house is gone. It’s just gone,” Rogers told the Joplin Globe. “We heard the tornado sirens for the second time. All of a sudden, everything came crashing down on us. We pulled our heads up and there was nothing. It was gone.”