Joplin family reunites after tornado destroys home

Friday, September 16, 2011 | 9:29 a.m. CDT
Jada Smith (left) and her grandmother, Susan Bragole, walk their dog near the storm shelter in the Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer park for Joplin tornado victims. The storm shelter is one of the weatherproof amenities provided for the residents. Each trailer bedroom is equipped with weather alert systems that flash and vibrate to awake residents in the case of bad weather. "For a while, every time we had storms I went through a panic mode," Bragole said.

JOPLIN — Moments after the May 22 tornado in Joplin, 6-year-old Jada Smith put on her pink and purple princess dress and began singing and dancing.

"She just went on as herself," Susan Bragole, Jada's grandmother, said.

Before the tornado, Bragole lived with Jada and her sister, Jayme, and the girls' mother and Bragole's daughter, Stephanie Lopez, in a house on Anne Baxter Avenue near Cunningham Park. After the tornado, the three younger females moved to Baxter Springs, while Bragole remained with Steve Dockelman and son in Joplin.

“When the tornado hit, it separated everybody,” Bragole said.

She and more than 500 other families have been relocated to temporary housing provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

By late August, Bragole, Jada and other members of their family were spending time together again.

"That was healing for me to have all my grandkids together," Bragole said.

Because the tornado destroyed her church, the family watched “Hour of Power," a worship telecast, from Bragole's couch in her new FEMA trailer Sunday.

Bragole also took her grandchildren to see the site of their old home for the first time since the tornado. Where the house once stood, black and white tiles were visible in a wall-less, debris-covered kitchen. Sippy cups poked out of the rubble.

“We were hoping to God that we got a home, so they can come here and start feeling normal again,” Bragole said. 

Three months later, Jada still asks her grandmother to go to a park that no longer exists.

“By the time they get older, they are going to see a new Joplin,” Bragole said.

“They need to know that in such a disaster, a town can recover to be a better and stronger place.”

Bragole might have 18 months of free rent until her new home is built.

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Bradford Stanley September 17, 2011 | 10:36 a.m.
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Kelly Moffitt September 17, 2011 | 3:22 p.m.

Hey all, I just removed a comment from Bradford Stanley on this story that had been used for commercial purposes. Just a reminder that this comments space should remain free of advertisements (for more on our comments policy, please check here:

--Kelly Moffitt, community outreach team

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