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Volunteers Weston Maltrud, 11, and his little sister Sierra, 8, begin organizing donated supplies for the victims of the Joplin tornado. Submitted Photo

Local family helps rebuild Joplin, Mo., from tornado damage

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On the evening of May 22, Joplin, Mo., suffered massive destruction when a tornado hit the city.

According to Bemidji's Christopher and Misty Maltrud, the Joplin tornado was one of the most devastating tornados in United States history.

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Last month, Christopher, a registered nurse at Sanford Health, went with his family to help restore Joplin, a city located roughly 150 miles south of Kansas City.

Originally planning on taking a family vacation to the east coast, instead, the Maltruds, with their children Weston, 11, and Sierra, 8, spent a week in Joplin, volunteering labor and giving donations. They left June 24.

What caught the Maltruds' attention was when they learned that the city's hospital was destroyed. But this was not what kept them in Joplin when they arrived.

"I actually didn't do anything with the hospital," said Christopher, whose nursing license is only valid in Minnesota.

"Instead, I was open to whatever needed to be helped with," he said.

Chaos continued to engulf Joplin even a month after the tornado hit, ruining countless commercial and residential buildings and covering the city in debris.

"So many people are volunteering," Misty said. "One comment we heard many times was that if it wasn't for the local churches in the Joplin community, the residents really don't know how they would have made it."

The Maltruds, along with employees and Sanford Health, helped donate food, baby supplies and protective gear.

"The churches were right there for the needs of the victims," Misty said.

Misty explained that with the hundreds of buildings that were wiped out from the tornado, many who were not directly affected worked tirelessly to help those who were.

"It's been both direct and indirect," Misty said.

"We are helping the community itself," Christopher added.

Along with helping to organize and distribute items to those in need, Misty said many times they talked to the victims about their personal survival stories.

Misty said several people who were affected by the tornado felt they needed to be heard.

"It is a healing process for them to share their stories," she said.

The stories of survival, Misty said, were often times horrifying and always extremely emotional. Many survivors were confused about why they lived while they saw others die, sometimes very gruesome deaths.

"There was a lot of survivor's guilt," Misty said.

Yet along with tkhe death (a toll racking up to more than 150 people), destruction and disorientation, there was also hope.

Joplin, a city that was home to about 50,000 people now holds over 300,000, as people and organizations have flocked there to help rebuild the community.

Optimism is flourishing throughout the city, Misty said, as people are coming together.

"We are able to pray with them," she said. "There's such a sense of hope. People couldn't get over the amount of help there."

The Maltruds are going back to Joplin Thursday, July 14.

There will be a ketchup drive on Wednesday, July 13, for the people of Joplin, who are currently sustaining on foods like hotdogs and other grill items. People can bring ketchup and mustard bottles to the Calvary Chapel or Chocolates Plus in Bemidji by 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Misty said that there is much more work to do, including years of rebuilding. Her husband added that the family will be going back to Joplin later in the year.

Despite the harsh reality of their city, the people of Joplin appear shocked there was not more damage inflicted upon their community.

Misty agreed.

"It's an absolute miracle," she said. "I've never seen such people coming together."

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