POSTED: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - 4:30pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - 4:44pm
One year ago one of the strongest, most devastating tornadoes to ever hit the U.S. claimed 161 lives in Joplin, Missouri.
The city has since then been struggling to recover, both emotionally and physically.
The anniversary observance began with a visit by President Obama, then continued with a remembrance by tornado victims and the governor of Missouri.
All around Joplin you see signs of healing, but there are also many reminders of the suffering that this city will never forget.
"When the storm hit I was on the ground floor. I was struck by something. Most likely a cinder block from the wall next to me. I suffered severe head injuries including a split chin, broken jaw, crushed teeth, torn gums and a severe concussion," tornado survivor Malachi Murdoch recalled.
18-year Murdoch was one of nearly a thousand people who were hurt last year when the EF5-category tornado ripped through Joplin and Duquesne, Missouri.
They were the lucky ones.
In just 30 minutes the mile-wide tornado had killed more than 150 people and damaged or destroyed some 10,000 homes and buildings.
"We turned on our weather radio and heard that St. John's had been hit, and the announcer's voice had the fear in it, that it was really bad," said Susan Murdoch, Malachi's mom.
The scars are still everywhere, but new homes keep springing up.
The city broke ground on three new schools as part of anniversary ceremonies, and the spirit of Joplin is stronger than ever.
"The selflessness and generosity and the love and care that the people of Joplin showed on may 22nd has defined us as a city," said Malachi. "We are Joplin and I pray that we never forget the magnitude that is in that."
The highlight among the anniversary events was a walk of unity.
Thousands of people traversed through the parts of the city most affected by the tornado, ending their walk at a memorial to the victims.