Search and Rescue - The Joplin Tornado

"Search and Rescue" by Dustin Miller

Guest post by Dustin Miller

On May 22, 2011 an F5 tornado hit the small city of Joplin, Missouri. It cut a path a half-mile wide and destroyed one third of the city. More than 150 people perished in the catastrophe. I live about five miles south of Joplin but I was lucky to be excluded from the tornado's path. During the time the tornado was wreaking its havoc, I was unaware of what was actually happening. I stepped outside and all I saw was black sky to the north. I ran inside to turn on the news. I not only witnessed the tornado live but I also began to realize the magnitude of the situation.

I could not believe the destruction I viewed on television. I felt so bad for the people in Joplin that I wanted to go help. However, the authorities kept stating that they did not want anyone coming into the city. It was too dangerous and there were too many people there already. I felt horrible because there was nothing I could do to help.

After a few days, I was finally able to reach my church in Joplin where they were sending out groups to help with the cleanup. I was placed with a group of four other volunteers. Two of them were from Kentucky, one was from Alabama and one was from Arkansas. I could not believe that people would come from such far distances to assist complete strangers and sacrifice their time, money and energy to help a community they were not even a part of.

We were sent to the southwest part of Joplin close to where St. John's hospital was hit. When I saw the neighborhoods surrounding the hospital, I was awestruck. The destruction was rampant. It reminded me of an apocalyptic war movie. The area looked like a military battlefield ravaged by high-powered weapons and bombs.

We drove around looking for families that needed help. It did not take long. We got out of the truck and began picking up limbs, debris, pieces of their house and belongings that were scattered across their lawn. We spent all day cutting branches and trees that had collapsed in the yard. We made only a small dent in what the family needed to accomplish to recover from the aftermath of the storm but they were very grateful for our assistance.

The painting I created was in response to the many heroes who reacted on that infamous day in Joplin, Missouri. I wanted to pay tribute to those extraordinary individuals who came out from all over the country and sacrificed so much. I wanted to honor the men and women who risked their lives in the search and recovery efforts to help victims in a time of extreme need.


  1. captivating painting - nicely written post - always wonderful to read about people stepping up and helping others after these terrible tragedies.

    1. Thanks Judi,

      Dustin is my younger brother and is a very good artist. He and his family live about five miles south of Joplin and they were very lucky to come away from that storm unharmed. He talked a lot about how so many people stepped up and came to the aid of those in need.

  2. I am moved! What a beautiful artwork depicting the unselfish acts of wonderful people helping those in need. I so admire first reponders and ordinary folks who set aside their own safety and RUSH to aid others. We MUST continue to thank these awesome souls and let them know we are grateful for their work. Too many times life is taken for granten until nature shows its wicked side. Thank you for the share Dan and thanks also to your brother who showed a POWERFUL artwork that represents 'Angels at work'.

    1. Sal,

      Thanks so much for the nice comments. That tornado was absolutely devastating to the community down there that my brother and his family are a part of. Dustin saw firsthand how awful the destruction was at ground zero. He was very impressed and touched by the efforts of the men, women and animals involved in the search and recovery. I know his painting was inspired by those unselfish people and was meant to honor them as heroes.


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