Many Four Staters quietly took time out of their day to reflect on the 161 lives lost in the Joplin tornado, six years ago today. Tornado survivors and those who lost loved ones that day say time has brought some healing. But it's important for them to, in their own ways, reflect on what happened at 5:34 pm May 22, 2011.
The tranquil sounds of pond water, and children enjoying a playground. Once a year, it seems, on May 22nd, even the little things you can experience at Cunningham Park mean so much more to enjoy while you have the opportunity.
"You can die really easily," says Kaleb Underwood.
11-year-old Underwood survived the Joplin tornado, taking shelter with his grandparents in the hallway of their home.
"When people talk about tornadoes, I'm like, please don't talk about it. I was in the tornado. I don't want to have anything bad happening again, because I was really scared," says Underwood.
But something about the tornado is important for Underwood to remember.
"Came here and walked around to see all the things they built after the tornado. To remember. It means a lot to me, because a lot of people died," says Underwood.
"It's tough," says Kenny Kelly.
Kelly doesn't know where emergency officials found his sister's body, after she died in the tornado. It's only the second time Kelly has visited Cunningham Park, the location where his sister's car was recovered. His sister's name is now on a memorial plaque at the park.
"There's 160 other names on that plaque, too, and I think of them. We know a couple others who were lost, and their names are on that plaque, too. I just know she is in God's hands. They were all in God's hands that day. They're all in a better place. We have the memories of them, and I guess that's about it," says Kelly.
Perhaps the simplest way to describe May 22, 2011?
"It was a good day and it turned out to be a bad day," says Kelly.
But both Kelly and Underwood say Cunningham Park is a symbol that good days come back.
At the end of our interview with Underwood, he wanted to mention something else...
"I hope my brother doesn't have to go through another tornado."
Even the good days will still have a few scars.
Tornado survivors say it's important to respect how people, in their own way, are still healing from the tornado. Many survivors say they appreciated having the opportunity to visit Cunningham Park this year on their own schedule, without any officially scheduled observances.
KOAM - Licensed to Pittsburg, Kansas