Recent Joplin High School Grads Remember 2011's Tragic Tornado

3 years 10 months 6 days ago May 22, 2013 May 22, 2013 Wednesday, May 22 2013 Wednesday, May 22, 2013 8:37:00 PM CDT in News
By: Dan Kennedy
loading

JOPLIN - People in Joplin are still cleaning up from the tragic tornado two years ago. But as houses are built and trees replanted, the scars from the disastrous storm remain for many residents. KOMU-8 News spoke with four seniors at Joplin High School about their memories of May 22, 2011. They lost their school building in the tornado and spent their final two years of high school in makeshift classrooms at the mall.

TEENS SHARE THEIR STORIES

Before May 22, 2011, people largely ignored the sound of sirens in Joplin.

"Sirens going off in Joplin, it's not a big deal usually," said 18-year-old Abe Hueller. "People just ignore it cause nothing ever happens ever."

Hueller's classmate and friend Lane Freeborn agreed with that sentiment. "When a storm came you went outside and you watched it. Sirens weren't a big deal," he said.

Graduation day 2011 was no different: dark skies, loud sirens, and then the EF5 tornado struck the Southwest Missouri town.

"They were saying Wal-Marts gone, Home Depot is gone, the high school is gone and it's just like 'okay, it's not gone. There's some damage we think,'" Hueller remembered. "Until we start coming into town, there was debris falling on the car and then we could really see what was going on and how graphic it was that you wouldn't want anyone to be a part of... ever."

Abe Hueller, Lane Freeborn, Diana Vu and Cody Adkins are all graduates in the Joplin High Class of 2013. The tornado took their school, their gym, and a third of their town. Material things. And it sounds like a cliche, but they say the storm also took their innocence.

"Having to deal with so much, losing friends," said Diana Vu. "At one point we have to grow up, but it's just too soon for them."

"It's just one of those things where you can't say anything to anyone cause you don't know why the sky turns black, you don't know why something like that would even happen but it does," said Cody Adkins.

Adkins now wants to be a first responder. Two years ago, he was working the front lines and helping strangers moments after the storm.

"In times of need you look to someone to say are you okay? Here's a bottle of water," Adkins said.

That's when his phone rang: a call from his mom at the morgue. She was okay but his best friend, 16-year-old Lantz Hare, was dead. Hare was an avid biker and a straight-A student.

"I was sad but how can you stop a tornado from hurting people or stop your friend from being gone," Adkins said. "It hurt a lot but I know that he is in a better place than I am."

Joplin Schools Superintendent C.J. Huff has kept a close eye on this year's senior.

"Tremendous amount of poise and tremendous amount of leadership," Huff said. "They had to grow up a lot. They've been a fantastic class to work with this year and I keep hearing great things about them. They've shown tremendous leadership and they've set the bar pretty high just as the Class of 2012 did."

Just as the class of 2013 had to grow up in a hurry, the Joplin school district wants this new high school built in a hurry. In Joplin, there's only one high school and it is the identity of Joplin. It is probably not easy waking up every morning and going to school in a mall.

"I miss having a normal high school with a gym in it. That's the big thing for me," said Hueller.

The makeshift 'mall high' houses kids mature beyond their years.

"There's no fights. Usually in high school you'll see fights," said Adkins "People are a lot more emotionally connected."

As the students remember their friend Lantz, these recent Joplin graduates will take into life lessons learned over a tough two year stretch.

"Don't take anything for granted because a lot of it can be taken away in a few seconds," Hueller said.

Never forgetting this could happen again: the tornado that transformed their town.

"They say lighting never strikes the same place twice. But they don't say anything about a tornado," Adkins said.

REBUILDING EFFORTS
The Joplin mall will still house the juniors and seniors next school year. The freshmen and sophomores are at another location. But all four classes will be back together when the new high school is expected to open in August 2014.

More News

Grid
List
COLUMBIA - The Family Access Center for Excellence, or FACE , is working to help more families in Boone County... More >>
4 hours ago March 28, 2017 Mar 28, 2017 Tuesday, March 28 2017 Tuesday, March 28, 2017 9:55:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - The U.S. House voted to repeal a set of Obama-era consumer protection rules Tuesday. The move lets Internet... More >>
5 hours ago March 28, 2017 Mar 28, 2017 Tuesday, March 28 2017 Tuesday, March 28, 2017 9:18:00 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Members of Missouri's House Budget Committee want to make records of elected officials' flights on the... More >>
5 hours ago March 28, 2017 Mar 28, 2017 Tuesday, March 28 2017 Tuesday, March 28, 2017 8:52:00 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY - A bill looking to remove construction worker payment restrictions on contractors is moving along in the capitol... More >>
7 hours ago March 28, 2017 Mar 28, 2017 Tuesday, March 28 2017 Tuesday, March 28, 2017 7:09:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - Crews responded to a vehicle fire on northbound Highway 63 in Columbia around 6:30 Tuesday evening, just south... More >>
7 hours ago March 28, 2017 Mar 28, 2017 Tuesday, March 28 2017 Tuesday, March 28, 2017 7:09:00 PM CDT in News
KANSAS CITY (AP) — Federal prosecutors allege that two Kansas City men killed a man after kidnapping him and attempting... More >>
7 hours ago March 28, 2017 Mar 28, 2017 Tuesday, March 28 2017 Tuesday, March 28, 2017 6:49:00 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — A Missouri appeals court panel said utility regulators had no authority to grant conditional approval for... More >>
8 hours ago March 28, 2017 Mar 28, 2017 Tuesday, March 28 2017 Tuesday, March 28, 2017 6:08:00 PM CDT in News
BUNCETON - A water leak that occurred around 5 p.m. on Tuesday forced the city to turn off the water... More >>
8 hours ago March 28, 2017 Mar 28, 2017 Tuesday, March 28 2017 Tuesday, March 28, 2017 5:49:00 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — A Missouri woman who used her neighbor's home to receive a fraudulent loan was convicted of... More >>
10 hours ago March 28, 2017 Mar 28, 2017 Tuesday, March 28 2017 Tuesday, March 28, 2017 3:44:00 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — The Missouri House gave initial approval to a bill that would overturn a St. Louis ordinance... More >>
10 hours ago March 28, 2017 Mar 28, 2017 Tuesday, March 28 2017 Tuesday, March 28, 2017 3:33:00 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY – On April 4, Cole County voters will see two propositions on the ballot designed to improve Jefferson... More >>
10 hours ago March 28, 2017 Mar 28, 2017 Tuesday, March 28 2017 Tuesday, March 28, 2017 3:28:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service placed native bumblebees on the endangered species list at the start of... More >>
11 hours ago March 28, 2017 Mar 28, 2017 Tuesday, March 28 2017 Tuesday, March 28, 2017 3:06:00 PM CDT in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Police said an investigation found that a man apparently fatally shot the mother of his children... More >>
12 hours ago March 28, 2017 Mar 28, 2017 Tuesday, March 28 2017 Tuesday, March 28, 2017 2:20:00 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens says people should have the option of getting IDs that allow them... More >>
12 hours ago March 28, 2017 Mar 28, 2017 Tuesday, March 28 2017 Tuesday, March 28, 2017 1:49:00 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Missouri's Republican-led House has endorsed a bill to repeal the state's "prevailing wage" requirements for public... More >>
12 hours ago March 28, 2017 Mar 28, 2017 Tuesday, March 28 2017 Tuesday, March 28, 2017 1:45:00 PM CDT in Continuous News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Gov. Eric Greitens said he's still against expanding eligibility for Medicaid in Missouri following failed efforts... More >>
13 hours ago March 28, 2017 Mar 28, 2017 Tuesday, March 28 2017 Tuesday, March 28, 2017 1:17:00 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — A new Missouri law will change the standard for vetting expert witnesses in jury trials. ... More >>
13 hours ago March 28, 2017 Mar 28, 2017 Tuesday, March 28 2017 Tuesday, March 28, 2017 1:06:00 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY - As Missouri legislators debate the merits of a state prescription drug monitoring program, five of the nation's... More >>
13 hours ago March 28, 2017 Mar 28, 2017 Tuesday, March 28 2017 Tuesday, March 28, 2017 12:53:00 PM CDT in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 52°
3am 53°
4am 52°
5am 52°
6am 49°

Select a station to view its upcoming schedule:

Coming Up Next

2:07a
Today
3:00a
Mad Money
4:00a
Early Today
2:00a
Paid Program
2:30a
Paid Program
3:00a
Paid Program

Tonight's Schedule

7:00p
Blindspot
8:00p
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
9:00p
Chicago P.D.
7:00p
Arrow
8:00p
The 100
9:00p
KOMU 8 News @ Nine on The CW
9:30p
Seinfeld