Telling a tornado story: The role of narrative in memory, identity, and the post-disaster, trauma recovery of Joplin, Missouri
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Following the May 22, 2011 impact of an EF-5 tornado in Joplin, Missouri, the devastated community displayed remarkable resilience, earning the Rick Rescorla Community Resilience Award from the Department of Homeland Security, attracting over 80,000 volunteers, and capturing the nation's attention and admiration. Although they lost 161 lives, experienced more than 1,000 citizens seriously injured, lost more than 7,500, 18,000 cars, and numerous schools, firehouses, and churches, the community's actions and ethos inspired monuments and publications bearing the title "The Miracle of the Human Spirit." To better understand how this community could exhibit such success, I engaged in ethnographic, grounded theory research, discovering that the narratives of the tornado helped to shape the ongoing ethos within the community and inspire non-residents to actively engage in the recovery process. This work examines the traumatic effects of the tornado, how narrative contributes to individual, psychological recovery, how narrative helps shape post-disaster identity for communities, the role of social media in changing access to representation of individual narratives, and material objects related to defining a narrative past.