Joplin: 9 months later

JOPLIN, Mo. - Wednesday marks nine months since an EF-5 tornado tore through the city of Joplin, Mo.

Every week since that day, May 22, 2011, the city has shown signs of progress.

Businesses are coming back, and so are residents.

The city's motto is "Proud of our past... Shaping our future." The community is living up to that saying.

For months now, the Joplin school district's administrators have met with teachers, parents and students, designing the future of the city's school system.

Two elementary schools, a middle school, a high school and a tech center all need to be rebuilt after the five campuses were destroyed in the tornado.

Assistant Superintendent Angie Besendorfer says construction is only part of the rebuilding effort.

"It's exciting to be able to dream about, what will schools be like in 10 years, let alone 75?" Besendorfer said. "When a two-year-old can run your iPhone then we probably need to be thinking about what those two-year-olds are going to be like in kindergarten."

Just last week crews started taking down the damaged high school.

The new design is still a few months away from being completed.

Up the road - crews work to demolish the old South Middle School.

"The front doors would have been right over here."

We caught up with Chelsea Plummer, a former student and parent; she stopped by to see the demolition of the building.

Plummer remembers her 6th and 7th grade classes here.

"My oldest daughter would have went here next year, and we were pumping her up, and we walked to the bus stop every day, my kids' bus stop was right here."

Take a drive through the debris field and you will see construction everywhere.

There are new apartments, new homes and businesses.

"Of those homes that were damaged or destroyed we have 52 percent of those under building permit for repair or rebuild," Mayor Mike Woolston said.

But the city leader told 2News there are still thousands of empty lots and homes which still need attention.

He suspects many residents are waiting for the city's master plan.

That is expected to be in place by March or April.

Hundreds of people have been living in FEMA trailers for nine months now.

Slowly some families are starting to move out.

The trailers are pulled out as people move, another sign of progress in Joplin.

The FEMA parks are scheduled to close in early November.

Mayor Woolston says that date may have to be pushed back.

"We can extend that for an additional six months if need be according to FEMA. But it's important that we get housing rebuilt so those folks have a place to go, we can't expect them to be moving out of there if they've got nowhere to go."

Last fall, Alisha Brigance took us on a tour of her new house.

"The two things that I asked for is I wanted a big kitchen and a laundry room no longer in my garage," she said.

Brigance would end up getting that and more. Her home was destroyed in the storm.

The family moved into a new one on Christmas Eve.

"There was still some work, I mean we didn't have any counter tops, none of the cabinetry doors or drawers were on so for the next week and a half we still had workers in almost daily. But I didn't care we were in the house."

That is the feeling a lot of people have around town. They want to get things back to normal.

From crews working on new utility poles, to the clearing of land for the new hospital replacing the damaged St. John, it's slowly getting there.

This community knows its future will take time.

The total cost to rebuild the city is estimated at $3 billion.

Of that, $24 million is damage to city government buildings.

Councilors were told last month that all the costs to the city will eventually be paid by insurance and state and federal reimbursements.

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