Freeman Health System is gearing up to dedicate its Beacon of Hope Tornado Memorial at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The memorial is located at 32nd and McIntosh Circle Dr., Joplin.
“We would love to see the public to attend this event,” said Paula Baker, Freeman Health System president and chief executive officer. “No one in our community will ever forget the aftermath of the May 2011 tornado. Whether you were a victim of the storm, whether you cared for those injured during the storm or whether you volunteered to clean up our community after the storm, no matter your story, we have all been touched by the devastation that Joplin faced. And that is why we would like to open that invitation up.”
The Beacon of Hope Tornado Memorial — which stands 14 feet tall — is steeped in symbolism.
“It does have several words that remind us of the role Freeman staff and all of the medical community played that night: compassion, bravery, selflessness, heroism and dedication,” she said. “We want it to be a place of reflection for people that they can come and sit down, there is a bench built into the memorial so people can sit there, they can bring flowers, they can whatever feels comfortable for them, as they reflect upon everything that monument embodies. There are also evergreen trees planted around it and that is in honor of Freeman’s continued and ever lasting gratitude to the community.”
Baker and several others will be speaking at the event.
“We will have a victim of the tornado, who was injured quite seriously – she also happens to be a Freeman employee, we will have the Freeman Voices, it is a group of Freeman employees who sing on special occasions and they will be doing a couple of numbers,” she said.
“Given the magnitude of everything that occurred that night, we felt it was very important to pay tribute to those who survived the storm, those who were lost in the storm and those who did everything in their power to save our community after the storm,” Baker added. “That night was unlike anything in the our community had ever seen, including our doctors and nurses. They treated unimaginable injuries, not just one or two at a time, but hundreds and hundreds. Our community was fighting to stay alive that night. And the clinical staff at Freeman Health System was helping to lead that fight. We know that the events of that night – May 22, 2011 – are embedded in the memories of everyone in this community, including every single patient, doctor and nurse at Freeman. It is important for everyone in the community because those memories are permanent. And so therefore we wanted to provide a place for our staff and our patients to remember and reflect upon the compassion, bravery, selflessness, heroism and dedication that enveloped Joplin that night.”
In addition, markers are stamped in the concrete with the letters “N, S, E and W” representing the four directions and symbolizing the fact that help came to our community from all directions after the tornado. Other elements of the symbolism present in the memorial will be revealed during the dedication.
Those planning on attending do not have to RSVP and parking is available at the Bentlage Medical Center, located at 3202 McIntosh Circle Dr., Joplin.