Over the weekend, I drove up to Joplin to see my parents. I chose a different exit this time, deliberately choosing the path through where the tornado had made its mark this time last year. The hospital still looks like something out of 1980s Beirut.

My family was very lucky last year, their homes untouched. Still, they can tell some horrible stories. Driving through it again this weekend and seeing signs of new life, new development was encouraging and still heartbreaking.

It’s hard to believe how different the landscape is now. My dad said that for days it was nearly impossible to get your bearings. There was a scramble to somehow label streets because it all seemed indistinguishable… same devastation, block after block. It’s still like that. I get to a certain point, and without a street sign, it’s very easy to get turned around.

You know I used to tell people that I was from Joplin, and nobody knew where that was. Now, when I say I’m from Joplin, I get the same question every time. “Family affected?” Thank God the answer is no. Ironic that a tornado figuratively put Joplin on the map while literally wiping whole sections from it.