Amy Franklin Stevens, Theta Kappa/Baylor U, and family survived the May 22, 2011 EF-5 tornado that ripped through Joplin, Missouri. Read Amy’s lovely tribute and thank you to two Sisters, Dr. Jennifer Bjorgaard Massengale, Theta Kappa/Baylor U, and Margaret Weart Franklin, Chi Beta/Purdue U, who helped the Stevens family get through the initial, trying days following the tornado.
By Amy Franklin Stevens, Theta Kappa/Baylor U
Sisters Step In After Tornado Decimates Family Home in Joplin, Missouri
When a tornado hits, parents grab their children, run to shelter, then throw themselves over their little ones, using their bodies as a layer of protection. It’s instinctive and spontaneous.
It’s what happened in my bedroom closet in Joplin, Missouri, on the evening of May 22, 2011. Keith, my husband, grabbed our little girls, ran into our closet, and laid his body over them. He saved their lives.
The days after the tornado passed in a blur of adrenalin, hard work, gratitude, grief, and exhaustion. Time moves oddly when you’re in crisis mode. Life doesn’t seem to flow in minutes, hours, and days. Life after the tornado was disjointed; jumping from moment to moment:
- My parents drove three hours, without hesitation straight into a disaster area to pick up my frightened and shell-shocked children.
- Keith and I returned to our home the next day to salvage belongings. I frantically tried to salvage everything in save-it-all moments. Paperclips, dental floss, flower-shaped erasers, little odd-shaped Lego’s that are impossible to find except when you step on them in the middle of the night. Find them, save them!
- I resigned to just leave it all. We don’t need any of it. Everything we need was up at my parent’s house, most likely eating chocolate chip cookies for breakfast.
- I stood with my neighbor in her backyard looking at her decimated house. She told me how it “exploded” right after they ran into their safe room. How she had to hold the door shut. She didn’t cry when she told me about her home exploding around her family. She stood there staring at her crushed home and told her story in a matter-of-fact tone. Then, she looked away from her home and saw her daughter’s crushed Barbie house sitting in a pile of debris. That’s when the tears came. It’s one thing to look at a demolished home. It’s another to be reminded of your child’s loss.
- We received phone calls, texts, Facebook messages, and emails from our friends and family around the world. Those were the moments that bolstered us.
- We watched search and rescue dogs sniff around our piles of debris, not sure what to hope for in that moment.
- We found my wedding dress dry and intact.
While my husband and I were lost in these moments, my three children received a large box in the mail at my parent’s home. The box was filled with brand new outfits, swimsuits, purses, hats, shoes, and sunglasses. Lou Probasco and her daughter, Dr. Jennifer Bjorgaard Massengale, my Chi Omega Sister from Baylor U’s Theta Kappa Chapter, sent my children a box that replaced their entire summer wardrobes. I lack the words to fully express the gratitude I feel for them. The box they sent contained so much more than clothing. Their generosity reminded us that we are not alone in this tragedy. The box was filled with beautiful, bright clothes designed for a summer filled with swimming, walks, play, and fireworks. It was one of our first, powerful reminders that life will go on. They sent joy, compassion, and love. They sent the reminder of a Sisterhood that lasts beyond graduation, careers, and family. They sent hope.
- We were constantly amazed by the volunteers who offered us water, handed out food, and prayed for us with sincerity, compassion, and generosity of spirit.
Jennifer wasn’t the only Sister who helped us regain our footing after the tornado. Another Chi Omega Sister was providing healing to the hearts and minds of my children. She cared for them with love and understanding so I could be free to sort through what remained of our home. This Sister held my children after their nightmares. She listened to them recount the story of the tornado as their young minds tried to comprehend something incomprehensible to the adults in their lives. She nurtured their minds, bodies, and souls and brought healing. This Sister is my mother, Margaret Weart Franklin, Chi Beta Chapter from Purdue U.
My husband, our children, and I are fortunate these three amazing women stepped in while we were in crisis. I am proud to call Jennifer and Lou friends. I am so proud to call Margaret my mother. I am forever grateful and honored to call them Sisters.