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finishing up

June 11, 2012

As my time in Pittsburg drew to a close, it intensified.  Friday my son Chris and I drove to

Joplin, 35 miles (60 km) away.  Almost exactly a year ago, the city was devastated by an

EF-5 tornado.  The multi-vortex twister was a mile wide at times and stayed on the ground

for 22 miles (38 km).


158 people died directly from the storm.  Nearly 1000 were injured, including the grand-

mother of Chris’s girlfriend. Approximately 7000 houses were destroyed and 850 damaged.

Six were killed when the system hit a hospital, and Joplin High School was destroyed, just

hours after the school had had its graduation elsewhere in town.  Here’s what’s left of it.


This is all that remains of the home of Chris’s girlfriend’s grandmother.


Chris and I saw block after block of foundations like this, but virtually no construction. The

city itself, however, was busy elsewhere. The Home Depot that had been flattened was rebuilt

and open. We had a leisurely meal at Red Lobster and headed back to Pittsburg. We had heard

that Obama was coming to town that day and we didn’t want to get caught up in that traffic.


The President did show up a few days later to address the graduating class of Joplin High



Saturday dawned with the heat, humidity and threat of storms that seem to accompany all

graduations in the Midwest.  In the morning I watched Chris coach and my younger grand-

son Keith play in a soccer game.  I ran into an old friend, Dee-Dot-Dorothy (not her given

name), at an adjoining game.  We caught up briefly, then I left to get ready for Sean’s



It went well.  Here’s the traditional throwing of caps and other things at the conclusion.


Here I am with my guys.


We split up after agreeing to meet at Barto’s Idle Hour in nearby Frontenac for supper.  I

went back to John and Patty’s for a few more hours.  Chris and his girlfriend Chris came by

to pick up some more chicks and a duckling.


I got to Barto’s first, just as the band that my friend Joe plays bass in was setting up.  They

gave a great show, including “The Chicken Dance”.


I was soon joined by Sean, Keith and the Chris’s.  Then Holly and her boyfriend Andrew

arrived.  She is the step-daughter of Chris, the male.  I ended up on the end of the seating

arrangement, caddy-cornered to Keith.  We played a game of “What’s That College’s Nick-

name?” until the food was served.


As the meal progressed, the smiles and laughter grew larger.  It sank in on me that this was

a Day of Days, one so special I’ll always remember it, and vividly.  I looked across at the

empty chair and imagined Jude there.  That was the only way the evening could have been

better.  The bustle of the restaurant swirled around me as I had a silent moment missing

my sweetie.


The rest of the group left about an hour later.  I stayed to talk to Joe during a band break.

When they started again, I listened to a few more tunes, then left, giving Joe the salute from

Life of Brian.  I called Jude when I got back to Chris’s house.  The bear had made its first

appearance at the beehives.


I was ready to go home.



WEDNESDAY: goin’ north


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