One year ago today the small community of Joplin, Mo. experienced one of the deadliest tornadoes in this nation’s history. The storm, nearly 1-mile wide, killed 160 people in a matter of minutes.
Head Football Coach, Chris Shields, was new to the program in 2011 and was living about five hours away from Joplin in Wentzville, Mo. when the tornado hit. He turned on the television only to see the house he was moving into in a week was flattened and everything was destroyed. I had the opportunity to catch up with him a few weeks ago to see how the rebuild was coming.
“This isn’t something you can prepare for.”
Within two days of the tornado, Shields and his assistants traveled to Joplin to help. “It was mind numbing,” Shields says. “No picture could prepare you one bit for what we saw.”
The undamaged Junge Field, home of the Joplin Eagles, has 4,500 seats. On September 10, 2011 more than 2,000 additional seats were shipped to the field to hold what ended up being a crowd of more than 6,500 for Joplin’s home opener.
“When we pulled up, there was a line around the block for people waiting to get in the game,” explained Shields. “The portable stands in the end zone created a bowl game effect. It was unforgettable.”
“All these people came out to support you tonight and it’s time to show this town, this community, and the world what you didn’t lose in that storm …perseverance, resiliency, hard work, dedication, teamwork. Come together tonight for one purpose, together as a team and we’ll come out victorious.”
Shields was able to preview some rough initial plans for the new 2014 facilities, but for now the students are divided – a middle school houses the 9th and 10th graders, and an old shopping mall holds the 11th and 12th graders.
“Better days definitely lay ahead. But for now we couldn’t be more grateful to have the opportunity to play in front of this dedicated, amazing community we call home.”
Chris Shields made sure that the community continued to rally together and the game of football helped do this. ESPN featured the Joplin football team in an October episode of Outside the Lines.
Want to help?
Our office provided Coach Shields and the Joplin Eagle football team a Gold subscription for the 2011-2012 football season and my Hudl Helps money went to Joplin Schools Tornado Relief Fund. If you’re interested in helping, you can also make a secure online donation.
Kim works on our Internal Sales team. She loves helping coaches by connecting them with the amazing talent she works with everyday. Although from Omaha, she’s a Missouri Tiger J-School grad which is a point of contention for many Huskers in the office.