Today it is five years since the Joplin Tornado ripped through the city.

I remember it well. I was the editor of our sister paper, the Cherokee County News-Advocate and, like today, it was a Sunday.

We'd had a tornado warning in Columbus as well, but it had amounted to nothing and we'd returned home from our in laws across the street where we'd gone to take shelter.

After that, I'd run to the grocery store to get a few things for dinner and saw the wall cloud sliding to the south.

I remember saying out loud "someone's going to have a bad day."

I had no idea.

Maybe 30 minutes later I'm working in my home office when my wife slams through the door "It's all over Facebook, Joplin just got hit."

Like any journalist, I didn't stop to think, I grabbed my camera, a notepad, the keys to the Blazer we had at the time and bolted out the door.

I later realized I was hitting the outskirts of Joplin near 7th Street as the storm was making its way out the other side of town.

I can't begin to describe the devastation I witnessed. This wasn't my first tornado, but this was different.

The city looked like a warzone. I could see smoke from fires all along the damage path rising. Debris was everywhere. People were already out trying to dig out, but for a while, it was futile.

I hit 20th and Main and realized I wasn't going any further and stopped to get my pictures.

I saw a firefighter, shaking in frustration as he watched a house burn to the ground because there was no water pressure to stop it.

As I walked away from there I saw a couple saying "I think that's so-and-so's house."

I replied "it's gone, they can't save it."

Then the woman sobbed, crying out. "Oh my god! That's our house!"

I just walked away, there was nothing else I could do.

When I got back to the corner of 20th and Main, employees at Walgreens were handing out blankets, ripping open medical supplies and generally doing everything they could to help.

Someone grabbed me and dragged me across the street to the convenience store located there where a man had a dislocated shoulder and they couldn't figure out how to get him to the pharmacy where nurses and emergency medical personnel had arrived and set up a triage unit.

Fortunately, I had a leatherman in my pocket and we used it to take a door off and use it for a makeshift stretcher to carry the man across the street where he was loaded into a truck and carried off.

I stayed as long as I could to help out, but also knew I had a job to do and returned to Kansas to begin reporting on the devastation.

Five years later the scenes are still with me. I remember handing a blanket to a shivering elderly woman in the Walgreens parking lot saying "Here's a nice, warm blanket."

She replied, "I'd rather have my nice, warm home."

I remember convincing a man whose face was a mask of blood from a scalp wound he was convinced was a scratch to sit down so I could do some first aid and having to call for a nurse because the "scratch" was a four-inch flap of scalp. It was actually an almost humorous moment as I went "whoa!"

"Is it going to need a couple of stitches?" he asks.

"Uh, yeah, a couple," I replied, while frantically waving for a nurse.

But, from the destruction, has sprung new life and vitality for Joplin.

Today, you can still see the signs of the Tornado. The tree-lined avenues are gone along the path.

But new stores and new homes line the damage path.

Joplin-ites are strong, and resilient and the community came together — and remains together — in a way only shared hardship can produce.

They should be proud of themselves.

I know I'm proud of them, and humbled to have had the opportunity to tell their stories in the days following.

All IMHO, of course.

— Patrick Richardson is the managing editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. He can be emailed at, or follow him on Twitter @PittEditor.