May 23 2012 – Follow-Up Interviews in Joplin

We decided to heed Olaf’s advice about the importance of remembering to listen to your body so we slept in, cooked a nice breakfast and then drove over to the KOA for our first showers since we arrived in Joplin.

We followed up on last year’s interview with Debra Fort, the Principal at Irving Elementary School, to see how things went during this past school year. The grades had been split between an older school and temporary classrooms FEMA set up outside that building. The kitchen was in a third building, also provided by FEMA. The role of cafeteria, gym and auditorium were all performed by a single room known as the “cafegymatorium.” In addition to the issue of split campuses the school experienced a rise in disciplinary problems especially amongst the youngest children. The hallways and classrooms were full of books and art donated by other schools from all around the nation.

We followed up on last year’s interview with Randal and Shelly of Kraft Insurance, a customer oriented company based just blocks from where St. John’s hospital used to be. In the center of the tornado’s path, their office was the only building still standing for blocks in any direction. Upon finding salvageable the couple immediately began working to help get their customers back into homes. They filed claims over their cell-phones surrounded by piles of rubble until they could move into a temporary office. Randal walked us through the improvements he is making on the newly rebuilt office to insure that it is even safer and more disaster resilient than before. They are just finishing construction this week after telling their contractors to prioritize their clients.

We interviewed three friends: Greg Wininger, Brandy Kendall and Stephanie Ruckman. Greg’s girlfriend and son died in the Wal-Mart during the storm and his girlfriend’s dog walked through 6 miles of rubble back to his house, showing up 3 days later.

We ate dinner with Misti and her family at a fundraiser for her mission before heading back to camp to begin processing the day’s footage.

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