‘The Twister’ commemorates victims of Joplin Tornado

Seth Kinker
Neosho Daily News

Saturday marks the 10th anniversary of the EF-5 Tornado that tore through Joplin, causing 161 deaths in the single deadliest tornado on record in the United States since official records were stared in 1950.

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the damage to the built environment approached $3 billion, making it the costliest tornado on record as well.

Shortly after the tornado in 2011, Theo Mason, an Arkansas native who grew up in Noel, witnessed the destruction firsthand while working with his healthcare job that had him go to homes in Joplin.

“I was going into some of the clients home north of where the tornado damage had happened,” said Mason. “A lot of the streets I had to drive down I was familiar with, when I got to the area, this was the first time right after the tornado, I got up in there and I couldn’t find my way around. It was horrible.”

“As a young kid I’ve always been amused with storms and tornados and stuff, my favorite movie was the Twister with Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt,” added Mason. “but actually, seeing something like that hit our home area and seeing the devastation and what really happened, it just tore me apart. Emotionally, I tried to handle as much as I could, but all of these things went into me writing something and one day it just poured out on paper.”

Mason was brought up in the church and was always drawn to gospel music. He sings positive country music, has written several gospel songs and describes his songs as more ‘gospel with a country sound,’

As a kid, he would walk around singing songs he had made up and as a teenager began to write songs and poetry.

“I would say it was kind of a calling,” said Mason on what drew him towards songwriting and poetry. “I felt always called and words would come to me. As I got older, about 2012 and on, I started writing a bit more. Things came to me; lines came to me and I tried to run with that and write songs. 2014 was actually when I wrote the song called, ‘The Twister,’”

Mason has been performing locally since 2004 and although he’s a singer and songwriter, he doesn’t play any instruments.

Last year, around the time the pandemic started, he was online and saw a posting from Jared Easter. Easter traveled with Jeff, his cousin, and Sheri Easter who are a well-known southern gospel group.

“I noticed Jared had posted a thing online saying he was interested in helping artists or songwriters get their songs done,” said Mason. “he was wanting some extra work since they weren’t getting a lot of shows because of COVID. I had messaged him wanting to see if he could do anything with just lyrics. I was astounded by what he was able to do with my lyrics. He arranged my songs, I just sent him my lyrics and he did the rest.”

That was the first time Mason had reached out to someone to help put songs together and it was a perfect fit. Mason even said the first time he heard one of his songs come back he was brought to tears because of how good it sounded.

One of the many things that inspired the lyrics to The Twister was Will Norton, an 18-year old Joplin High School graduate, who was a victim of the tornado just hours after accepting his high school diploma.

“I kept hearing these stories and of course saw lots of news reports after the tornado had happened and they were looking for Will,” said Mason. “He was just one of many that had perished that day. When I heard his story I kind of wanted to write at least a portion of the song to dedicate to him and the others that lost their lives.”

Lyrics from the third verse: 

He was followed by so many

Across the internet

Will just graduated from Joplin high

He was looking forward to better things yet

He was in route with his father

But the twister changed his plans

He will be missed and loved by so many

And his memory cherished by his friends

He and the others will not be forgotten 

Mason told the Neosho Daily News that writing the whole song a few years after the event itself came from seeing and hearing more accounts in the years that followed.

“People would mention they saw, they called them ‘butterfly people,’ out of the storm they had seen, and I knew they were talking about angels,” said Mason. “Those stories of those angels and what those people saw during the storm is what triggered all of this.”

Last year, Mason was going through a binder of all the songs he had written for the next song he would look to get music for a song hr could sing. He thought it sounded like a poem more than anything and didn’t know if he wanted to do anything with it or not.

After talking with family members at the time who were helping him decide what song to do next, they all chose The Twister. Mason had a chorus and verses already written and sent it to Easter, who put the arrangement together.

The Twister officially released as a single on Apr. 21, 2021 on Spotify, iHeart and Amazon.

Mason’s work can be found on YouTube by searching, ‘Theodore Arthur Mason’

Verse 1

The sun went down in Jasper County 

And the thunder began to roar

The graduating class just had their ceremony 

But no-one knew what lay in store

It was half past the hour of five

The storm was in the air

As the twister swept it’s way across the city

Taking lives as if it didn’t care

It came into town with a roar

But Joplin never felt this lonely before

Chorus

There was prayers going up

There were angels coming down

And the love of God was all around

But there was all kinds of destruction in this town

And as the storm raged on and out of control 

Some people felt desperate and all alone

During this storm in their life, God takes another home

Verse 2 

Toward St. Johns the twister made it’s way

The staff was getting prepared 

Then the intercom announced condition black

Everyone was getting scared

They were hanging on for dear life

There was no turning back

The twister was bearing down on them

Like a train that paid no mind to it’s own tracks

And it ripped the hospital to shreds

All across Joplin, they were finding people dead

Verse 3

He was followed by so many

Across the internet

Will just graduated from Joplin high

He was looking forward to better things yet

He was in route with his father

But the twister changed his plans

He will be missed and loved by so many

And his memory cherished by his friends

He and the others will not be forgotten 

And that day that the twister demolished Joplin.