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Misty Shepherd

When the weather radio sounds, Misty Shepherd’s staff knows what they need to do.

Their boss will need a few minutes to herself.

“They have to take me to my office,” said Shepherd, administrator at the Granby House, a 60-bed nursing center about 30 miles east of Joplin. “They have to talk me down so I can compose myself. I have to get myself together before I can go out and lead in those situations.”

Five years ago, Shepherd was the director of nursing at Meadows Care Center, one of three nursing facilities destroyed in the tornado. She had been at her niece’s graduation in Nevada about an hour away and saw on television that St. John’s Regional Medical Center had been hit. She knew instantly that her center, two blocks to the west, had to be damaged too.

Shepherd thought of the 104 residents and the employees, as well as those at The Greenbriar, a sister nursing facility also in the storm’s path. She would later find out that The Greenbriar had suffered a direct hit from the tornado, killing 11 people inside.

“I can remember driving down 71 Highway at 100 miles per hour and having the highway patrolmen pass me like I was standing still,” Shepherd said. “The closer you got, the sicker you got.”

She thinks back to how she parked her car a mile from the Meadows and ran the rest of the way. She can still hear the screams of injured people she passed and recall the smell from a broken gas pipe.

The next hours and days were consumed with finding homes for the displaced residents, half of whom had been housed in a locked unit. With records missing, workers also had to try to figure out medical histories.

No one was killed at the Meadows, but a few were injured. One resident lay on top of one of the nurses to shield her, Shepherd said.

“I think you process through it every day, little by little,” she said recently as she sat inside the Communities of Wildwood Ranch, which opened across town to replace Meadows. “Will it ever be healed? Probably not.

“You always question: What if I were there that night? How could I have changed things, would things be different? As an administrator, if a storm is coming now, I don’t want to leave. Because I feel like I should have been there that night.”

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