Butterflies and miracles
June 26, 2016
by Jack L. Kennedy

Pain, comfort, relief and recovery are terms which often vary in meaning, and may take years to adequately discern and define. But butterflies, even broken humans depending upon each other, can bring strength and signs of hope.

This is the central message of two tight, slim volumes about the May 22, 2011 tornado that struck the Joplin, Missouri area Butterflies at the Window: A Story pf Butterfly People and Miracles in the Storm (Volume 1), and its related volume Standpipes and Storm Shelters: The Story of Butterflies and Miracles Continues (Miracles in the Storm Book 2), are award-winning author and Joplin area resident Sandi Mc Reynolds’ (Vine Tree Press) depiction of the tension and terror that hit the area on a promising Sunday morning, as Joplin High School students eagerly prepared for graduation day.


Sandi and her husband Mac live near Joplin, Missouri with three dogs, two little Shih Tzu Jack Russells and a huge rescue mutt. The couple are active members of College Heights Christian Church, Joplin, where Sandi McReynolds, pictured at left, serves on the Women’s Ministry Board and leads Salt & Light, a ministry dedicated to informing and educating Christians about social and political issues affecting church and family. She helped found, and for many years served on the board of LifeChoices (now Choices Health Network).


The books are noteworthy and distinctive because thousands of words have been penned since that day about the death, destruction, volunteer aid from across the nation, and rebuilding which has given the old lead-zinc mining capital new hope and life. But McReynolds focuses most on the human factor, the biological bricks and mortar which hold cities and lives together long after physical landmarks are removed or eroded. Coping, the story of the McConnell family tells us, is not merely learning to live and eat in a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) trailer to assure nourishment and survival. Dealing with unexpected twists and turns, fractures in limbs, lives and dreams, is more than watching a new hospital eventually rise from the ashes, or a high school reborn temporarily in a shopping mall.

Some of the books’ smallest moments are the most memorable, as when tiny old chests with rusty, antique locks are unearthed from the rubble. Inside is a favorite doll, an old picture, a gift a 6-year-old once got from his father “to keep his secrets safe.” Its value to a little boy...? Priceless.

Those steps were memorable and necessary signs of recovery being defined in brick and mortar terms. But the books, filled with fictional characters, dialogue, and emotion based upon how real events of that time touched all, offer a feeling, human reaction, depth and interaction that statistical reports since about FEMA response or volunteer counts or new libraries or schools arising by 2016 cannot provide.

The butterflies seen around the stripped, crippled city, gave faith and hope to thousands. Churches and futures have been reborn.

The language from McReynolds is simple, appropriate and direct. The butterflies representing hope that keeps reappearing in one sense or another five years after the tornado...long after physical pain may have been overcome but emotional scars still persist, hidden in the shadows of that 2011 day.

As a footnote to "Standpipes" McReynolds says, “Some scars that remain on the city’s wounded spirit are easier to see,” and trust and hope in city government or others take time to rebuild. But lives, hopes and cities are built by time, humans and inner strength.

Series: Miracles in the Storm

Title: Butterflies at the Window: A Story pf Butterfly People and Miracles in the Storm (Volume 1)
Author: Sandi McReynolds
Publisher: VineTree Press; 2 edition/Amazon Digital Services C (April 29, 2016/May 1, 2016)
Paperback/$8.99; Kindle/free for subscribers
172 pages/609 KB
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0692704299
ISBN-13: 978-0692704295
ASIN: B01F262A7C

Title: Series: Miracles in the Storm
Publisher: VineTree Press; 1 edition (April 28, 2016)
Paperback/$7.99; Kindle/free for subscribersLanguage: English
ISBN-10: 0692702725
ISBN-13: 978-0692702727
ASIN: B01EX4YH8E

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The reviewer, a former Joplin print and broadcast newsman, grew up at 1602 Bird. On the same street two other branches of the Kennedy clan also lived, The immediate neighborhood was spared when the tornado struck, but are not exempt from the pain that still lingers during reconstruction.

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