020 :: Ex Nihilo

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Sometimes bad things happen to good towns, things like plagues. And there tend to be two kinds of people that arise: lovers and looters.

The lovers are obvious.

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They’re your average people caught up in careers that make sense to their own, personal stories. They’re just coming home or they’re just visiting, but when something bad happens, they all pitch in to help.

Even if rainwater itself turns against them, they’ll keep throwing out ideas until something helpful sticks.

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They’re people like Maya who ended up moving to the city and building a life with Mitch and the little girl who had once been Lee’s mother. It was strange for her, at first, adopting someone technically older than her, someone infused with the life of her own son, but she began to see just as much of Lee in her as anyone else and raised the girl like a big sister.

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To Maya, that’s just what lovers do when they find abandoned children in the midst of a wreck.

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Then there are the looters.

When tragedy strikes, the looters are the ones so focused on themselves that they don’t even realize how many they’ve hurt until it’s too late and the damage is done. They’re the ones stealing guns when a bomb goes off.

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The curious thing is that not all looters stay looters. Some of them wake up and see the wrong they’ve done.

Monroe, for instance, passed through the refining fire and came out the other side a bigger lover than any other Joplinite. He sold his share of Seedbody Energy and helped pass legislation that would let the Joplin undercurrent — the Oumessourita water — flow unhindered for generations to come.

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The water not only healed everyone plagued with the sludge.

It inspired a new wave of culture care.

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Art studios opened. New murals were born.

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People decided to leave their local parks better than they found them, which meant green space that was better all of the time.

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The food improved.

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Others got healthier — biking more, driving less. The Crawlers came out of hiding to teach anyone with a learner’s spirit.

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Even the clay studio found more and better ways to teach people how to work with the fruit of the earth.

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There was dancing.

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And photobooths.

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And even memorials to remind them of their heritage — how even Langston Hughes built something beautiful out of a very, very hard time.

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Thulani grabbed one last messy meal before heading out of town, sharing of course with his now-found wife and child.

(There were not enough napkins, but there was plenty of meat).

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Some of the laid-off miners dug deep and received gold medals for their spirit of endurance.

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Jorge moved into more sculpture and hosted some stone sculpting symposiums. The stone sculptors appreciated this because few had picked up their trade in recent years. Curiously, when you’re busy pillaging the earth, there isn’t much time to see the beauty hiding inside a block of marble, as Michelangelo would put it.

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Many more taps were opened. Their handles had many clever names, but none of them simply said, “Beer.”

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And ultimately, people favored the water. As the Methodist preacher said at one of the pottery nights, “Our cups runneth over.”

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The water was alive in them, giving them life. An undercurrent, if you will, tying together this town that had built something out of nothing, clean and clear as a piece of white ceramic clay rising like starlight out of the abyss.

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Click to hear about our next BIG undertaking

brought to you by the Joplin Convention & Visitors Bureau

photographed & directed by Mark Neuenschwander

written & directed by Lance Schaubert 

produced by Carrie Puffinbarger

2 thoughts on “020 :: Ex Nihilo

  1. I really enjoyed this. It was great experience and my first with graphic novels. As a Joplinite who longs to come home again, it helped me stay connected!


    1. Well thank you so very much, Cynthia. We’re delighted you enjoyed it and would DEFINITELY recommend getting into other graphic novels, especially since so few of them involve actual photos — we’re kind of breaking new ground here.

      Tell Joplin I said, “Hi,” when you go visit — I miss it as well.

      Be sure to tell your friends about this!


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