Scars from the Tornado: One Year at Joplin East Middle School by Randy Turner

The students who have sat in my classrooms for the past two years have
not looked any different from those in previous years.

The comments they make have not changed in any respect from those I
have heard from students through the past 14 years.

But these students are different from any I have taught before.

Any of them who lived in Joplin on May 22, 2011, were deeply affected
by the tornado that cut a swath through the city that day, killing 161
and destroying one-third of the city, including East Middle School,
the school that had been their home.

For the past two years, these teenagers have attended school in a
warehouse in an industrial park on the outskirts of the school
district, directly across from a frequently aromatic dog food factory.

While more attention was paid to high school students who attended
classes in a former anchor building at Northpark Mall, these children
and the staff at East Middle School have struggled to make a warehouse
into a home and a place where students can learn what they need to
know to succeed in high school and in life.

The students' stories of dealing with the most horrific tornado to hit
this nation in six decades are included in the new book, Scars from
the Tornado: One Year at Joplin East Middle School. The book features
the students, in their own words, telling their tornado stories, how
the disaster affected them, and relating what happened during the
2011-2012 school year.

The students were not the only ones who had a difficult time dealing
with the aftermath of the tornado. I also tell my story in the book,
how I did not even want to be in the classroom when the school year
started, a dramatic contrast to the usual enthusiasm I feel when the
middle of August rolls around each year.

Though nearly two years have passed, the effects of the tornado are
still being felt and will be felt for years to come. One student in my
fifth hour class can always be found with a smile on her face and has
invariably turned in top-notch work for me this year. I was surprised
to discover from a fellow faculty member that this young girl had lost
her home in the tornado and had serious problems during her seventh
grade year.
Melinda's story and how she turned her life around is included in the
book. She, like so many others at East Middle School continue to deal
with the scars from the tornado every day.

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