Dave Evans

Dave Evans, 55, looks around the neighborhood along South Brownell Avenue, where he grew up near 21st Street.

It’s where, when he married, he bought his own buff brick house in 1988 and brought his daughter and two sons to adulthood.

On May 22, 2011, almost every home here was splintered to debris, including his. The 1978 Chevrolet truck his dad bought when Dave was in high school was found propped against a neighbor’s tree. When they hauled it down, “it fired up and drove,” Evans said proudly.

He wondered who would return to the block after the storm.

“We were the only ones,” Evans said. “Nobody’s coming back here.”

The houses have been rebuilt. Saplings have replaced the huge trees. But all of the other neighbors that Evans knew, most of them elderly, have all gone. The man across the street, he said, rebuilt his home. Then his wife died.

“He never stepped through the front door,” Evans said. It’s still empty.

Evans is a paramedic, 37 years on the job, and the disaster coordinator for the local Salvation Army. He worked at ground zero after the Twin Towers went down on 911. He worked the night the Joplin tornado destroyed his home. His family made it through safely, crouching in a crawl space with barely three feet of clearance.

The city is healing, he said, but it’s also changing. Older people leaving. Younger people buying. But the trauma isn’t over.

“We lost a grocery store that didn’t come back,” Evans said. “We lost a community association pool that closed down because everybody is gone. Different businesses never came back. We have brand new churches that have been rebuilt, and now they’re closed because the people in the neighborhoods that used to attend those churches have moved off and moved on.”

He continued.

“It does mess with you,” he said. “What you are used to, you can rebuild. But it won’t be the same neighborhood. The trees are gone. … You’ll never in your lifetime see those again.

“It will never happen.”

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