although the so-called rapture didn’t happen over the weekend, as predicted by harold camping, maybe something of a preview of the rapture did occur sunday night. around 6 pm sunday evening, a significant portion of joplin, missouri, the town i lived in for most of 2000 and 2001, was decimated by an f4 (or possibly higher) tornado, forever changing the landscape of this bustling little city.
j-town, as i affectionately call it, was not the place for me ultimately, but it was the place where i grew up, so it will always be a special place to me. i don’t mean grew up in the literal sense, being that i spent all of my life in sedalia until i went away to college at mizzou at the age of 17. no, my growing up at this point was more about actually becoming a grown up, at the age of 35. it was here in j-town that i was drawn away from the fundamentalist christianity i’d been steeped in for the better part of a decade, and began to see that there was life outside of the christian ghetto. it was here that i was first introduced to the ‘radical’ idea that neither christianity nor the other two abrahamic religions were the only game in town when it came to experiencing god. it was also here that i mourned my mother’s long drawn out death, which had finally occurred on christmas day 1999, a couple of months before my move south. it was here that a tumultuous love affair innocently began, even from the beginning knowing that it would end in the way most love affairs do, especially if there are other people involved : very badly (although happily, the two of us are now good friends).
somewhat humorously, calling it j-town seemed quite appropriate, because it seemed like every male i met had a first name that began with the letter j. in particular, i met way too many guys named john. i attributed that to joplin ‘being on the buckle of the bible belt’: ‘what do you think we ought to name the baby?’ ‘well i don’t know; john is in the bible and if it’s good enough for the bible, it’s good enough for our son!’ at one point i had assigned them numbers, but soon found that to be just plain stupid, so i just referred to anyone named john by his first and last name when speaking of him (whichever one he might be). also, there was my relationship with jesus, because even as i got further away from mainstream christianity, i learned more about the human side of jesus. at this point i wasn’t ready to say he was not a historical figure, but i was learning that the bible didn’t tell nearly enough of his story.
so, even though i was there a short time, joplin was a huge milestone in my life, perhaps even a turning point. i knew i couldn’t live there forever though, because, well, i’m not being politically correct here, but it is a redneck cracker-ish town. i used to count the number of people of color i’d see on a daily basis and most days i never got past 5 (although there was the one day i got up to 17, but i had to have counted some twice). there are two kinds of people (generally) who live there, jesus freaks and meth heads (respect to both groups, and to anyone in between). i loved being ‘the library lady’, recognized many places i went in town from working the front desk at jpl, but that’s all i was going to be had i stayed there. so i left, taking experience and friendships and memories with me into the next phase of my life. and that’s what i’m mourning here this evening, those experiences and friendships and memories. oh those things aren’t going anywhere. i’ll always have those things, but what i’m sad about now is that the place where those things, those changes, occurred has itself changed, in a most sudden and devastating way. however, even in the midst of this devastation, as j-town begins to rebuild, i believe what has happened will make joplin a better place in the long term. the pain and heartbreak my fellow joplinites are currently going through – well it hurts me terribly and i’ve been away for going on ten years, so i can only imagine what lifelong joplinites are going through. but all i can do is pray and send a little money to the red cross, and pray some more. going there to help is not an option for me at this time.