On Sunday, the deadliest tornado in the past 60 years hit Joplin, Mo. — the place Rod Smith went to school, the city where his son was born and his daughter graduated high school.
It’s a community that Smith said embraced him and helped him grow up from the 18-year-old “young punk” that he arrived as.
So it’s with sadness in his voice that he talks about some of the destruction the city has experienced.
“The high school graduation was Sunday, and the high school got destroyed the same day,” Smith said. “The school is gone. It’s just crazy to think how fast somebody’s life can really change.”
He has tried to get as many updates as he can over the past few days, and just before talking on a quick visit to Dove Valley, he received some good news.
“I just got an update about seven people that were found in the rubble of Home Depot, which was destroyed, but the people were alive,” he said. “They’ve got dogs on the ground, they’ve got a ton of people on the ground just looking through the rubble.
“The sad part is there’s another tornado expected to hit that area tonight,” he continued. “So it’s really a tough deal because they haven’t even started cleanup because they’re waiting on this other storm to finish up.”
Smith said he hasn’t looked at many photos or watched videos of the destruction, because he would rather remember Joplin during the good times.
“When stuff like that happens, the last thing you think to grab is a photo album, but that’s the only thing you should grab,” he said. “The rest of that stuff can be replaced, but the moments you froze in time you can’t get back. That’s why I haven’t looked at a lot of pictures of the city, because I remember what it looked like the last time I was there just a couple months ago. I want to keep that image in my head. As they rebuild it, it’ll just make it better and enhance my pictures instead of going back and saying, ‘This looks terrible.’ I just look forward to six or eight months from now when things are rocking and rolling and everything’s back to normal.”
And he has no doubt that the “blue-collar” people of the city will pick themselves up as soon as possible.
“The people who are there, we’re going to mourn, but at the same time we’re going to redo it,” Smith said. “We’re going to rebuild it and it’s going to be better the next time, it’s going to be stronger the next time and the people will come together and grow.”
Smith hopes to help by loading two semi trucks with supplies, and has even had an offer from Footprints in the Sky, a Denver-based non-profit, to load a plane with supplies to deliver.