MOORE — Although rainfall will inevitably wash away a sidewalk drawing of two conjoining hearts, a message written within will never fade: “Joplin and Moore strong.”
Cheyanne Phillips, a fifth-grader at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, put finishing touches on the hearts Friday, just moments before 14 Joplin students from Stapleton Elementary School arrived.
Since August, the Joplin, Mo., students — all members of SOAR, Serving Others as Role Models — collected more than $3,000 and about 600 books to donate to Plaza Towers, which was destroyed on May 20, 2013, during an EF-5 tornado that killed 25 people. The tornado occurred nearly two years to the day after an EF-5 hit Joplin, causing more than 160 deaths and destroying and damaging thousands of homes and buildings, including many Joplin schools.
Seven of those killed in Moore were third-graders at the school. About 300 students from that elementary are now attending Central Junior High School in Moore while a new school building is constructed.
During the visit, Joplin and Moore students played games together, ate lunch together and shared stories.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Cheyanne said, “because we can talk. It feels like they would understand us.”
Each Stapleton student also wrote letters that were delivered to Moore students Friday afternoon.
“Basically, we just kind of wrote about ourselves and asked a couple questions,” said Stapleton student Lindsey Marlay, adding she hopes they’ll continue to be pen-pals.
Lindsey said meeting and interacting with the Moore students was her favorite part of the trip.
“They went through the exact same as us,” she said. “We know everything’s going to turn out perfectly fine because we’re there for them, and we know kind of what they’re going through and how they feel.”
Joplin Superintendent C.J. Huff, who joined the Stapleton students for the trip, said they came to him with their proposal.