It Has Been 10 Years Since the Joplin Tornado

The Joplin tornado hit in Southwest Missouri on May 22, 2011. I can still remember it like yesterday. We were living 20 minutes drive from Joplin. Everyone was in shock at the devastation. The walls of the Home Depot collapsed inward. The Walmart was just a torn up mess of debris and dangerous wires everywhere. A huge swath of the Rangeline shopping district had been ripped apart. The St. John’s Hospital was completely destroyed. Cars were crushed and tossed here and there. People were stuck in their basements trying to get out. Homes were wiped out. Bodies were here and there. It was bad. Unlike anything I’d ever seen since 9-11.

My friend Jordan and her husband Dr. Fox headed down there immediately to help triage patients. My husband Dennis drove as fast as he could to Joplin to help Kelly, his brother-in-law. Their house was obliterated, all but the bath tub pretty much. They survived. Alot of people did not.

There were stories told. Awful stories like a mother that heard about the tornado too late and went to get her daughter who was playing outside only to find the girl had been swept away by the winds. Then there was the story of the boy that was sucked through the sunroof of his car while his Dad tried desperately to cling to him to no avail.

Yes, I have lived in tornado alley most all my life. We sorta scoff at them naders as we call em. Ain’t scared a no nader. But the truth is we all remember Joplin. It will be something we will never forget. Some of us still can’t even communicate our feelings fully about that day.

Tornado season is approaching. This weekend, we’ll clean up the basement a little and put pallets down in case of too much rain. We’ll put the usual chairs and table in the storm shelter and leave the back door open for any neighbors that need to seek shelter underground quickly with us. The storms have grown more frequent and harsher than I remember as a kid. Perhaps it has to do with climate change.

I, myself, have only encountered a severe wind storm tottering near level 1 tornado. But it was enough to scare the heck outta me. There was no time. It came up very fast. The lights went out. I ran from my bedroom to my children’s room. Things were hitting the house. Lots of things. Very loud. I pulled my sleeping children off their beds. I put them underneath me in a pile. We were all suddenly scared. I remember the sound of the wind in the dark as I looked up at the popcorn ceiling. There was no time to pray or for sirens. There was just a tremendous sucking noise as if something was gonna lift the roof clean off. My only thought was, “This roof is gonna come off us.”

It lasted maybe thirty seconds. I heard the timbers busting in the roof. I heard stuff hitting the house. Big stuff now.

And then it was gone. Just like that. We sat in the dark huddled together and in the distance a lone tornado siren began to sound a few minutes later. It was eerie.

The power came back up the next day. My Dad came to our house about 2 am with a lantern. He said, “Don’t go outside until the morning. You’ll step on something.” I don’t know how he managed to get through all the debris to us. The first thing he asked is if we were okay. I nodded. The kids had gone back to sleep.

The next day I saw the neighborhood. Whole trees were uprooted and tossed into homes or sheds. Trampolines were all bent and twisted up and thrown around. Alot of roofs were busted up, including ours. We had several broken timbers in the roof and there was a dent in the ceiling above my bed. The mall was a mess. Signs were thrown everywhere or toppled over. Even stuff was busted up in the cemetery. I had never experienced a night like that before and I hope to not again in the future. They say when you might die, your memories flash through your mind but all I could think in that moment was “dang, this roof is about to come off.” Anyway, we moved from that place. Found a place with a basement shelter and we love living here. If we can just only get through that dang tornado season….

I have one more tornado story to share. A few years later, we were heading to Colorado in an old RV bumper pull. We had two flat tires back to back. It was getting dark in the sky and the winds were picking up. We were on our way to Dodge City. We had to limp the RV slowly into a little town called Kinsley, a place I’d never heard of. There were tumbleweeds blowing strongly across the road as we made our way there. We stayed in the only spot we could, a little park on the outskirts of town where the Farmers’ market would be held the following day. That night the winds really picked up strong and rocked the RV back and forth. We eventually fell asleep.

The next morning we opened the door of the RV and the people from the Farmers’ Market were set up with tents and wares all around. They helped us get the tires repaired and gave us breakfast. They were very kind to us, especially my children. They told us we were lucky to find Kinsley. Some semi trucks further on down the road to Dodge City had been picked up and thrown off to the sides of the highway overturned. We asked why Kinsley was important. They said it was an old Indian settlement surrounded on three sides by a ridge. It was near Greensburg. They said tornadoes hit all around Kinsley but never hit the town. It was protected. It was a special place. I guess those flat tires were a good thing after all.

Here’s some old footage of the Joplin tornado. It will be 10 years this May 22nd.

If You Love Poetry…

If you love poetry…

I’ve found a great place to submit your work! It is a little newspaper called The Webb City Sentinel located in southwest Missouri in the Joplin area. The submission process is simple and free. If your work is approved by the poetry editor, it will be shown on the online portion of The Webb City Sentinel. Here is the announcement on their site. I love this. I love what they wrote:

“I’m a great believer in poetry out of the classroom, in public places, on subways, trains, on cocktail napkins. I’d rather have my poems on the subway than around the seminar table at an MFA program.”

Billy Collins, 2001-2003 United States Poet Laureate   

We want your poetry. We want poetry from your children and your grandparents.We want poetry from seasoned poetry veterans and those just putting ink to paper (or, finger to keyboard).

We want to feature them here in Webb City’s “newspaper.”  Then, we want you to print them out and slap them on your refrigerator, carry them in your pocket, give them to someone special.  We want your poetry on the school bus to Mark Twain and Eugene Field, while you’re waiting in line at Crazy Llama and the Sub Shop, and while you’re walking around King Jack and the Frisco Greenway Trail. 

We can’t wait to see what you’ve got.

Here is the link to the submission board:

I was super fortunate to be listed on their site recently. Here is the poem I submitted:

Little Pawn

by Janea Speer

My whole life, I admired the King and Queen.
Serene, graceful, and applauded.
Powerful and strong….aggressive.

Yet hiding behind the defenses of the lesser pieces.
As I became older, I pondered the knight or the bishop,
how they could think outside the box and level the playing field.

But, in my older years, I admire the pawn.
The one to first enter the fray with honest courage.
Who risks much although so little…..
One by one, swiped from the board unceremoniously and yet…
Relentless, undeterred, defiant against odds so stacked heavily against.

Yes, some days even the little pawn sees glory
when faced with such intimidating adversaries.

With this blog, I also wanted to do a shout-out to the poetry editor there. I met him in Fall 2019 at the Joplin Writers’ Fair at the Joplin Public Library. There were many great local authors there showing their books. He was at a table across from mine and was nice and friendly. We talked about publishing books and Ray Bradbury and joining writing clubs. It was fantastic to meet someone with an avid interest in reading and writing and helping other authors. He recently published a new work to help authors too.

His name is F.C. Schultz and here are a few links to some of his books. Type in his name on Amazon and you will find, on his author page, a large group of books he has written or co-written.

My daughter read the book titled The Rose Weapon and she did think it was quite good. It is a Viking story about fire-breathing dragons. There is a sequel to this book as well called When Embers End.

Hacker Hits Kansas Businesses

Today, I learned that three large multi-million dollar companies in my hometown in southeast Kansas have been hit by ransomware attacks. Two weeks ago, a large pizza corporation in Pittsburg, Kansas also got hit by ransomware and had to file bankruptcy because they could not afford to pay the ransom. Two months ago, hackers attacked my husband’s company in Fort Scott as well asking for a ransom because they hijacked the system. Garmin in Kansas City was hit by ransomware in July. The Kansas Heart Hospital was hit too recently as well as the Kansas City Community College. Here are the links to the articles regarding those ransomware attacks.

I think this is a concerted effort perhaps by someone local or from this area that is familiar with these businesses. It seems coordinated. I wish the media would actually cover this story. These ransomware attacks right now during the time of Covid will put a real strain on the workers of these companies and their families.

Here are some more articles about Garmin, The Heart Hospital, and the Kansas City Community College.

Another School Ransomware Attack in Kansas

https://www.kansascity.com/news/business/article244472307.html

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/healthcare-information-technology/kansas-heart-hospital-pays-ransom-then-hackers-came-back-for-more.html

Pretty Picture

I wanted to share with you this photo. Wind farms are spreading across Kansas. Here is a wind farm in my neck of the woods, not too far away……just about ten minutes away near the Missouri border at Opolis.

Bleeding Kansas: Making the Trip to Osawatomie

Prior to the American Civil War of the 1860s, my hometown state of Kansas was the site of a contentious battle regarding slavery. The first political election for the territory of Kansas was made in 1855.  The result of the election was a pro-slavery determination for the territory which sparked several years of border skirmishes.  These fights between pro-slavery and anti-slavery groups near the Missouri border caused the territory to be known as “Bleeding Kansas.”

bleeding kansas
Google Images.

At this time in 1855, over 5,000 Missourians that were pro-slavery crossed over into Kansas territory to vote in the election which caused some politicians to refer to the election as fraud.  However, the vote was kept.  Several months afterwards, abolitionist groups established the Free State militia force.  One such abolitionist and preacher was John Brown who later led the infamous raid on Harper’s Ferry in Virginia in 1859 prior to the Civil War.

john brown1
Google Images.
john brown
Google Images.
harper's ferry
Google Images.
hanged
Google Images.

By May of 1856, a group of Missouri raiders led by Quantrill sacked and burned the Free State supporter town of Lawrence founded by Massachusetts abolitionists.

quantrill's raid1
Google Images.
quantrill's raid 2
Google Images.

Today, if you visit Osawatomie in east central Kansas, you can see several John Brown historical sites. We recently saw the site of the Battle of Osawatomie between Missouri forces and Free State Kansas territory forces. At this site, is the Adair Cabin, one of only a few Osawatomie original buildings that survived the ransacking.

If you travel further south along the Frontier Military Route, you will see the site of the Marais de Cygnes Massacre, another border skirmish that occurred near the Travel Post.

IMG_3299
Google Images.

Further south of that is the Civil War era Fort Scott military fort.

Incidentally, Osawatomie also happens to be the place where the conservative Kansas Republican Party was established in 1859 during the “Bleeding Kansas” years.  The Kansas Republican Party was created by Free State abolitionist sympathizers.

An Agriculturalist from Southern Missouri

(This picture is from Google Images)

When my kids were little, I would take them to the George Washington Carver Park about 45 minutes away. It is close to Joplin in Diamond, Missouri. There at the park, you can visit the home of George Washington Carver and see the surrounding beauty of the Ozarks. George Washington Carver was a brilliant scientist.

He was born a slave in Missouri in 1864. He was taught reading and writing by his mother. He later became a world-famous agriculturalist. He is most known for his work on peanuts. We can credit to this man a better version of the peanut butter enjoyed by many in their lunch sandwiches every day.

He became the first African-American student at Iowa State Agricultural College. Carver also happened to be an instructor at the Tuskegee Institute. While Carver is most known for his work with peanuts, he specialized in developing methods of crop rotation particularly for the cotton farmers of the southern region of the United States. He developed hundreds of inventions through plant pathology research. Carver also was an agricultural advisor to such well-known leaders as Gandhi and Theodore Roosevelt.

George Washington Carver passed away in 1943 at the age of 78. His epitaph reads, “He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.”

First Book Reading

We had a great time at the Joplin Public Library attending the Joplin Writers’ Faire. There were around 30 writers at the event doing readings and signings. We donated 2 books to area libraries and sold books as well. We bought a book by FC Shultz titled The Rose Weapon. It is a book about Vikings and dragons. We also bought a children’s book and a Vietnam true stories book by Ronald Mosbaugh. It was a great event. Thanks to the Joplin Public Library for their beautiful new building and wonderful hospitality. This was my first reading of Searching for Fire and it went really well. Here are some photos of the event.


Joplin Writers’ Faire

The Joplin Writers’ Faire will be held at the public library in Joplin, Missouri at the end of October. There will be many writers in attendance from the 4 states area and lots of fun activities. I plan to be there at a booth for the book Searching for Fire. Please share this information with others who may be interested in attending this fun event! Thanks.