Most people are familiar with the classic Frank L. Baum novel and 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz. During my childhood, it was an annual favorite that was aired just once a year, usually in the spring and often around Easter. I watched the movie first but by the age of nine or ten, I had also read the book as well as some of the other lesser known Oz books Baum also wrote.

Most people are familiar with the classic Frank L. Baum novel and 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz. During my childhood, it was an annual favorite that was aired just once a year, usually in the spring and often around Easter. I watched the movie first but by the age of nine or ten, I had also read the book as well as some of the other lesser known Oz books Baum also wrote.  
When my kids came along, it was the age of the DVD so they watched the movie early and often. Once, after a long car ride after several days on the road during a vacation, we were pleased to find it airing on one of the channels at the motel. I'm not sure who was more pleased, the kids or my husband and I, but it proved a familiar respite from the road.
A tornado transports Dorothy and her dog Toto from the bleak plains of Kansas to the rich, colorful and sometimes challenging Land of Oz. I had never experienced a tornado at the time of my earliest viewings but those scenes always made me a little anxious.
I never imagined, in all my young writer's pondering, that I would ever experience a tornado up close and personal.
But I did.
Today marks the anniversary of the Neosho tornado, an event that newer and many younger residents are unaware. I will never forget that day, one that began with a normal routine and ended with me owning the blue jeans and T-shirt I wore, standing in the debris of our home.  That day began a long process of recovery, of sifting through what remained, one bit at a time, to determine what could be salvaged and what was trash, and a change in lifestyle.
Since that time, many tornados have impacted the area. Some have caused damage and destruction including last spring's Goodman tornado which leveled Goodman Elementary.  Almost seven years ago, the Joplin tornado destroyed a mile-wide swath through the heart of Joplin, leaving more than a hundred dead and many injured. The tornado stayed on the ground for over twenty miles and although Joplin has made great strides in recovery, many scars, invisible and physical, remain.
I've taken shelter from storms here in Missouri, in Oklahoma and in Louisiana. My hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri has taken a few hits although there's a long standing local belief that the north side of town, where my original neighborhood lies, is safe because it's protected by the Missouri River Bluffs. Some, however, debunk the idea so no one knows for certain.
Since it's spring, it's storm season here in our corner of Southwest Missouri so I pay attention to the weather. One day last spring, an EF1 tornado touched down in Neosho. That Friday afternoon, I had picked up my son and some friends after teen time at the local library. We were dropping his friends off when the warning was issued so we took refuge at Neosho High School, in the FEMA storm shelter. That made for a few scary moments but I am very appreciative our community has that shelter available to the public.
What puzzles me is those who display a cavalier attitude about tornadoes. I've heard a few people who express interest in viewing a tornado, who have made statements about how awesome it would be to watch one go past. I've seen tornados. I've heard tornado and while I recognize the amazing power in such a storm, I believe it is something to respect and a time to be wary.
Maybe watching such storms on television makes them appear exciting, the way that watching wild animals on film can make them seem cute and approachable.
In my experience, the reality is harsher than it may look on video. The roar of a tornado, which to me sounds more like the rage of a great beast such as a dragon than a freight train, is powerful enough to send chills down any spine. And watching the tip of a tornado cause destruction is enough to evoke a healthy fear of nature's power and to make any sinner pray.
Today, April 24, is a day I will never forget because when the storm had passed, like Dorothy and Toto, I knew everything had changed.






Lee Ann Murphy is a staff writer and writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.