Sunday, 15 January 2012


The children said the butterfly people protected them.

These stories, tales of guardian angels, could be dismissed as a child's fanciful imagination. But the stories have taken hold here. And as the months have slipped by, the adrenaline fading along with some of the terror, the stories have assumed a new, maybe even more important role. To understand why, you have to understand what this town of 50,000 went through — and what it still faces.

The tornado killed 161 people. It shredded entire neighborhoods. More than 900 homes were lost. Big box stores collapsed. The destruction was complete, the landscape rendered foreign.

The tornado unleashed stories about death and unlikely survival: A teenager sucked from an SUV, a toddler plucked from his mother's arms, houses that exploded in 200-mph winds as families huddled in bathtubs and closets. For months, just about any place people gathered, the stories spilled out, including stories about the butterfly people.

Emily Huddleston, 14, was injured in the May 22 tornado that hit Joplin. When she returned home after months of recovery, she noticed butterflies started following her ......



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