One of the most shocking things about the tornado zone in Joplin is the complete lack of living things. Not only are houses and cars missing from properties, but blocks upon blocks of city streets are bare of trees, shrubs, or even grass and flowers. Those trees still standing are often twisted, bare, and broken. Progress is being made in the city: debris is being removed, houses are being torn down, and new homes are being rebuilt. Regardless of these steps, it’s still disheartening to see nothing but rocks and dirt in so many lots. This is what makes planting trees in Joplin so exciting. No one is sad when they come to get trees. Homeowners may have lost everything, but they will smile to think that they will see life again on their properties. They are excited to have shade again and a barrier against the wind. They can’t wait to have flowering dogwoods at Easter and evergreens at Christmas.
People will tell you stories of trees that got knocked down in the storm. One woman told me about a tree she and her husband planted right after they got married 65 years ago. Over the years that tree stood in the yard where their children, and then grandchildren, played. Nothing can replace that tree, or the memories that went along with it, but she was happy to think that more memories could be made. Replanting was one more step towards moving on.
To date we have planted over 400 trees in Joplin. More trees have been given out by churches, local conservation areas, and other nonprofits. Despite these efforts, many lots are still bare. It will take a long time to get Joplin back to pre-storm conditions, but I hope that the trees we plant will be signs of life and regrowth that will give people encouragement as the rebuilding of Joplin continues.
- Clare Holdinghaus; ERT Year 18