Adolfo Castillo met Della in 1994 near Fort Hood, in his native state of Texas. Their love sparked quick, and Della, a Joplin native, eventually brought her new husband to her hometown. He’s been a valuable addition ever since: dedicated family man, Vietnam veteran and today, a consultant on the Missouri Commission on Human Rights.

We interview in their beautiful home, a new home that has replaced the one the Castillos lost after the EF-5. During the storm the couple hid in the bathroom; Della was on the phone with her son in Kansas City. “I said, the tornado is hitting us. If I die, I want to be talking to you.” In her other hand she held a photo of her dead daughter. As Della was thrown against the wall by the force of the wind, her son yelled, “Mom. Mom!” and the house, as Adolfo says, “fell apart all around us.”

Since then, the Castillos have been quintessential rebuilders. Adolfo is a leader in the local Hispanic community, which forms a large chunk of the local farm and meat-processing labor force, and via interviews with Spanish-language media, he was able to raise awareness throughout the country. Via pastors in the four-state area, he was able to raise support through Hispanic churches, where congregants were told: Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

“People lost homes, and some lost their lives. They are all victims, regardless of status,” he says.

“People were permanently displaced by this,” says Della. Her husband explains how families were scattered among relatives in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas. That said, Della adds, medical care was provided to anyone who needed it.

“I can speak a little bit for Joplin, because I was born and raised here. At that time, Joplin people came together to care for each other – as a community. It wasn’t race, it wasn’t gender and it wasn’t status.”

Adam Karlin

I survived an EF-5