A Piece of My Life

Before I moved to the big city, I lived in a small town called Neosho. This little town in southwest Missouri is where both my parents and I were raised, and all of my grandparents lived there. Leaving my hometown was pretty hard, but I think that I have gotten used to living in Liberty, and so has the rest of my family. Although I have adapted, I sometimes wish that I still lived in Neosho.

When I was in seventh grade, there was a huge storm that changed a town forever. In May 2011, Joplin, Missouri was hit by one of the deadliest tornadoes in America that killed over 150 people. Neosho is just 15 minutes south of Joplin, so I thought it was pretty scary, even though I wasn’t in it. I thought it was even scarier that we had planned to go eat in Joplin that night, but we decided to go to a church event that a friend of ours was in. As we were driving to church, we were listening to the radio, and heard that a tornado had touched down in Joplin. This did not surprise us because we were used to tornadoes, you know, living in Tornado Alley. Then we kept listening to the radio, and a man came on, crying, saying that he was driving down Rangeline Road, the main street in Joplin. He described the damage that the tornado had caused, and when he said that my dad’s work had been basically destroyed, we turned around and went home to get our four wheelers so we could go help out. After we picked them up, my parents dropped me off at my great grandma’s house, and drove to Joplin to help. We watched the news to see what was happening and just how bad it was.

My dad was the general manager at the Toyota dealership in Joplin, so I was at my dad’s work helping to clean up a few times a week. There was so much work to be done there. The main dealership was demolished, but the separate used car building was mainly intact, so they worked out of there. I had to help with washing the cars that were not completely destroyed by the tornado, picking up the debris, and sweeping the parking lot. Although it was one of the hottest summers in Joplin, I felt good about helping to clean things up. Spending so much time in the heat was also helping me to prepare for my first season of football.

School football started in third grade in Neosho, but I did not started playing until my eighth grade year. My dad was the high school football star, so people thought that I would be good too because I was big. I started off playing tight end because I was big, but I could also catch the ball consistently.

One day at practice, Coach Rook leaned over to me and said, “You know that you most likely won’t start as a tight end, but since we’re low on linemen, you would probably have a pretty good shot at playing offensive line.”

“I know I’m not the best tight end here, but I want to play, so I think I’ll try out the line. I want to play,” I replied, not really wanting to stop being a tight end.

The week before we started playing games, the teams were announced. I was so surprised that I had made a team that I went and asked the coach if I had heard him right. With me being one of the smallest linemen there, I was really surprised about making a team. Being able to play made me so happy, even if it was B-team, because that was my first year ever playing football. Throughout the entire season, I never came off the field until the very last game when coach finally decided to give me a break from playing. About halfway through that season, I learned that I was going to move away from my hometown.

After the tornado in Joplin, my dad had ‘rebuilt’ his store to where they were before the storm. It was almost like the tornado did not even faze them. Even though they were selling and detailing all of their cars out of a used car building, they still managed to stay at the top of all the dealers in his region, which was all because of my dad’s leadership and the workers’ efforts. My dad even got an interview with a national car magazine about his dealership’s performance under the conditions that they faced. This got him noticed by more dealers in different areas. He did not like the owner of the dealership because they micromanaged things, so he was already looking at different dealerships to move to, but when the tornado hit, he did not want to leave when they were in a time of need. I remember on some of the days that I would go to work with him, he would meet with corporate guys from Toyota, and they would talk about the offers that he was getting and where he would fit the best. My parents had it narrowed down to Lawrence, Kansas, St. Louis, Missouri, and Kansas City. They finally decided that Kansas City would be the best option because they really liked the owner of Legends Toyota, and they wanted to be closer to Neosho than St. Louis. On Labor Day of 201, my family found out that the house that we were about to buy in Lenexa, Kansas, was sold to another family. We need a house by the end of that week, so we drove up to Kansas City and looked through over twenty houses, all in three days. House-hunting was pretty stressful because my two brothers, who are both younger than me, and I were incredibly bored with driving all around Kansas City all day. My parents were also stressed because they knew we only had a couple of days to buy a house, and they wanted a house that would be great to live in. With my parents being on edge, my brothers and I had to be careful that we did not make them too mad. On the last day, we could not find any houses that we wanted in Kansas City, Kansas, so we started looking in Missouri. We had not even thought of looking in Missouri because my dad’s work was in Kansas, but after the third Missouri house that we looked at, we finally found the perfect one, which happened to be in Kansas City, Missouri, but in the Liberty school district. My parents bought the house the very next day and we went home; one of my brothers and I were both supposed to be in school at the time of our searching.

The first day back to school for me was a surprise for my friends and teammates because they thought that I had already moved. We left in such a hurry that I did not have time to tell anybody that I would be gone, except for my football coaches that we emailed. My first day back was the same day as a football game so everybody was glad for me to make it back in time for that. It was not much longer until my family, excluding me, moved to Kansas City.

My last day of school was also the same day as my final football game as a Neosho Wildcat. The very next day was my birthday, which was when I packed my bag at my great grandma’s house to leave for my new house in Kansas City. I was staying with my grandma because the rest of my family had moved up about a month before my football season was over, and I had begged them to let me play as a Wildcat for at least one season. They drove down to Neosho, or wherever I played, for almost every game to watch me play. Telling my friends and family goodbye was hard, but I got through it. Some of my friends and I are still friends today, even though we live over 160 miles apart.

My first day of school at South Valley Junior High started off with me being late and getting locked out. Samson Truong noticed that he and I were in two classes before third hour, so he asked to see my schedule so he could see if we had anymore classes together. He became my first friend in Liberty. The first day of P.E. was a cardio day, and we had to run around the track. Most people just stayed in groups and talked, but I did not have many people to talk to, so I just ran by myself, unless somebody stopped my and asked me who I was. Starting a new school was not as bad as I thought it would be though. I managed to make some friends by the end of the week. Pretty soon I was getting good grades and the year was ending.

Today, I still have the same friends I made within the first week of school. The move was a great thing for me because it seemed to give me a fresh new start. In two years, I learned many new things. Although the storm in Joplin was an awful tragedy, it did not cause my family and I to move to a new city. Although I did move away from my family, friends, team, and hometown, I was able to make new friends in a very short amount of time. I do not really regret moving to Kansas City, even though I wish that I could go back sometimes. These events have been small pieces of my life, even though it seemed pretty big at the time.

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