JOPLIN, MO (KTVI) – Survivors of the 2011 Joplin tornado now have a connection to survivors of the 9/11 terror attack. A seedling from a tree known as the 9/11 Survivor Tree was planted outside Mercy Hospital in Joplin on Sunday.
Sunday marked the five-year anniversary of the twister that took 161 lives.
Each year, different cities are awarded a seedling from the tree given its name because it grew back outside the World Trade Center following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
“We hope to watch it grow up right outside our cancer center, which is another healing place, just as the whole hospital is,” said Whitt Sanders, director of the Mercy Hospital Cancer Center.
Healing is in demand in Joplin. Some workers say they still occasionally break down emotionally when they think about May 22, 2011.
“I think when you’re in that kind of a tragedy, that it just doesn’t go away,” said Mercy employee Kelli Norris.
Some workers said they struggle whenever a storm warning is issued.
“We have some tears and we have just a little bit of anxiety,” said Donna Hughes, Mercy Trauma Manager. “But everybody is there for each other and we watch out for those individuals who struggle still.”
There is also a great deal of pride surrounding how far the city of Joplin has come back from the 2011 twister. Two days after the tornado destroyed the old hospital, Mercy promised to rebuild and keep all of the hospital employees on the payroll.
The new hospital opened in 2015. Mercy donated the land from the old hospital so a park and a school could be built.
“That’s ‘Joplin Strong,’” said Norris. “And we are so proud to be part of it.”