Joplin tornado victims relocate to Jefferson City

For most of us, the anniversary of the Joplin tornado is little more than a replay of the same upsetting images we saw a year ago.

But for one, new Jefferson City family, it's a measuring stick of how much they endured, and how far they have come.

These days, four-year-old Emily Stammer and her family like to spend time with a pet rabbit named Mopsy. Emily probably does not remember much about what happened to her a year ago. Her two-year-old brother, Ethan, probably remembers nothing.

Having just graduated from nursing school at Missouri Southern in Joplin, Andrew Stammer was preparing to launch his medical career.

He had a job lined up at St. John's Hospital.

On that fateful Sunday evening, the Stammer's were headed to church when the storm hit.

"Most of the houses in Joplin don't have basements," recalled Danielle Stammer. "So there's not really a good place to hunker down at home."

The family sought refuge at St. John's, which was directly in the path of the EF-5 tornado.

They had to force their way inside the building through some locked, sliding-glass doors.

"I just started beating against the door with my shoulder, just ramming it," Andrew Stammer remembered. "And after about six or seven times, it broke off the bottom enough for us to go through."

The family was barely inside when the full force of the tornado slammed into the building.

In the confusion that followed, Danielle and Andrew became separated.

He had Emily. She had Ethan.

Danielle says she lay on top of her son as the building came apart around them.

She was convinced she would not live through it.

"I remember thinking someone would find Ethan alive under me," Danielle recounted, with tears welling in her eyes. "I was sure of it, because I could feel everything raining down on my back. And I was singing to him because he was scared. And I didn't want him to be afraid."

Andrew Stammer suffered some bruised ribs in the tornado. Otherwise the family was okay.

However, they soon would discover their home was not liveable.

And when Andrew got a job offer at Univerisity Hospital in Columbia, the Stammer's decided to move to Danielle's hometown of Jefferson City.

Staying in Joplin was not an option.

"We wanted the kids to be kind of sheltered from all the destruction," Andrew explained. "It was a really hard decision, but her parents had a house here in Jefferson City."

Danielle Stammer has told the family's story in a memoir entitled Singing Over Me. She says the book was cathartic.

"I could look back and see how I had thought and how I had changed and how I'd grown and how I'd healed."

The signs of life beyond the tornado are now apparent in Joplin. St. John's Hospital is to be reborn there as Mercy Health Center.

The signs are also evident in Jefferson City. The Stammer's are expecting their third child in October.

More information on their story is available online at Danielle's website,