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Jun 03, 2011 | Melodie Woerman

Joplin-area Episcopalians Pick Up and Reach Out

[Episcopal News Service] Ramona Shields picked through what remains of her tornado-ravaged house in Joplin, Missouri, trying to find something intact from her 25 years there.


There were a few things -- some dishes and glassware, soggy books and newspaper clippings, some pictures and a family heirloom mirror hanging on living room walls left shaky and roofless.


Eight days after the monster EF-5 tornado ripped through her southwest Missouri hometown, Shields was stoic in the face of devastation that spread as far as one could see. Wearing a T-shirt with the name of her church, St. Philip's Episcopal, and a cap with the Episcopal shield, she said she was determined to get things cleaned up so she and her husband, Hugh, could start to rebuild.


But this time, she said, they'd have a storm shelter.


Like almost all of the houses in Joplin, where the water table is high and the soil very rocky, hers didn't have a basement. So the couple huddled in a corner of their recently remodeled bathroom with their four cats and Maggie, their dog, covered themselves with towels, and listened while the house came down around them.


"It was awful," she said. "It was breaking apart. You could tell."


After the tornado had passed, they emerged to find the back wall of the kitchen blown away. They now could see St. John's Medical Center, blocks away, since the houses and trees that stood between them simply were gone.


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