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Five Years Later: Revisiting Joplin, Mo.

060116 Rick Harris Joplin 2 C.jpg
060116 Rick Harris Joplin C.jpg

ABOVE, on the fifth anniversary of the tornado which ravaged Joplin, Mo., 161 balloons were released, one for each life taken. Among those was Sally Ann Moulton, shown on the memory board at RIGHT, sister to Rick Harris of Nashville. Moulton was killed at the Stain Glass Theater, the ruins of which are in the photo on the center of the memory board.

By Alex Haglund

Time may lesson the sting of grief, but even years later, happy memories can be twinged with pain for the loss of a loved one.

A tornado slammed into Joplin, Mo., on Sunday, May 22, 2011. The EF-5 rated storm had a maximum width of nearly a mile and took 158 lives immediately, even more indirectly, and injured nearly 1,200.

Sally Ann Moulton was among those lost. Moulton is sister to Rick Harris of Nashville, and on the fifth anniversary of the twister, Harris and his wife Rita journeyed to Joplin for the remembrance.

Among the events for the observance was a balloon release, casting 161 balloons for those lost towards heaven.

There was also a half marathon which Rita and Erin Stephens, Rick’s niece and herself a tornado survivor, ran in.

This was not Harris’ first trip back to Joplin since the death of his sister. Rick is the advisor for the Catholic Youth Ministry (CYM), the youth group at St. Ann Church in Nashville.

The CYM has made two mission trips to Joplin with Harris– the first was in the summer of 2011 to aid in the extensive cleanup efforts. The second was in 2013, when the group helped to rebuild a home.

The tornado was the costliest in Missouri history, and the costliest single tornado in U.S. History, with estimates for the cost of the damage (other than the human cost) between $2.2 and $3-billion. It is the third tornado to strike Joplin since 1971.

Moulton was killed while she was in Joplin’s Stain Glass Theater, within sight of the hospital. A picture of theater’s ruins, including some of the stained glass, was at the center of a memory board adorned with photos of Sally which was on display during this year’s remembrances.