JOPLIN, Mo. — It is May 22nd, marking the 12th anniversary of the massive tornado that swept through Joplin back in 2011.

For these Joplin students, it’s a distant memory of a beautiful day that turned stormy.

“It was really really dark. Probably darker than I’ve ever seen it in Joplin, which was really scary for a five-year-old at the time,” said Megan Meeker, JHS junior.

“I just remember the chaotic, you know, I have little, little siblings and we have pets. And my parents are worried about their nice things. We were just trying to hurtle down the basement to take shelter but no one knew how extreme this tornado was going to be,” said Abby Edwards, JHS senior.

An EF-5 – something unforgettable even for Jacob Tatum, just 2 years old at the time.

“I just remember my dad taking me and then going into our bath. And my grandma was there as well. And we he told me to get in the bathtub and look at the drain,” said Jacob Tatum, JHS freshman.

Even getting home to check for damage turned into an ordeal for Ellie Benfield.

“When we were trying to go home, what should have been a 15-minute drive went to over four hours. So we like saw people we knew on the side of the road and like helped him get home. And then you know, we finally ran out of gas and someone picked us up and helped us get home,” said Ellie Benfield, JHS senior.

Freshman Annabelle Rutledge remembers the damage to her Joplin home.

“Some of our windows were blown out and like our screen door and then our foundation was damaged,” said Annabelle Rutledge, JHS freshman.

For others – it would be far worse.

“And when we got home, our house was destroyed. And my elementary school was destroyed… my Nana was moving at the time to a new house. .. And so her old house was destroyed completely. And her new house was okay. And so when my house was destroyed and my mom and I moved in with her, and my cousins and my uncle moved in with her, and in this one, not that big house,” said Ellie Benfield, JHS senior.

JHS senior Jensen Vowels’ biggest memory was worrying about a repeat.

“I remember from like that summer I kept like a bag of stuffed animals in my storm shelter at my house. Just because like I’m so scared that like, I would lose them or something. And I like kept snacks down there, like just expecting that it would happen again,” said Jensen Vowels, JHS senior.

“Does scare me a little bit probably a little more than it should. I definitely take extra precautions,” said Megan Meeker, JHS junior.

“Every time the sirens go off, like you’re taken back and it’s it’s very scary. So that’s definitely the worst. That continued fear. I think the best part that nothing was really great that came out of the tornado but Joplin was really more of a community after that. We were very close knit,” said Benfield.