The memories were all too painful for Cindy Atteberry, president/CEO of the $27 million Joplin Metro Credit Union, who with her husband was nearly killed when the massive tornado of a year ago swept away their home as they clung to each other in a basement closet.
“I cried a bit yesterday when we stopped by the vacant lot where our beautiful home used to be,” Atteberry said Wednesday.
In the months after the devastating twister killed 161 people as it leveled a large part of the southwest Missouri town, Atteberry became a leader in a local anti-Bank of America crusade wrapped around insurance payment checks, a problem that also ensnared Atteberry herself.
Her payments and that of some 40 others who complained were bottled up under the old Countrywide/BofA mortgage merger, Atteberry said of her problems with managers at the big bank.
“After hearing about similar complaints against BofA shared by other tornado victims, I decided this was simply wrong what BofA was doing and the problem needed to be fixed right away,” said Atteberry who ended up winning backing from a local state senator and the Missouri Attorney General.
Eventually BofA cashed the checks and paid off settlements while also apologizing for the snafus, she said.
But Tuesday was a somber day for Atteberry and her husband, Curtis, who a month ago moved into a new home in a subdivision on the opposite side of the city where the tornado struck.
On Tuesday she was one of some 10,000 who took part in an anniversary “memory walk” traversing city streets and taking part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new school to replace one destroyed a year ago.
She said business and civic leaders and other members of the public stopped by churches and stores being rebuilt as well as at a new park. “The Extreme Home Makeover folks” from the TV show were there, too, she said. .
Neither Atteberry nor her husband suffered any injuries in the 2011 storm “though I remember being with my husband as we tried to hold on to the closet door as we heard the crashing of glass and brick upstairs.”
“When we came out, it was surreal and there we were standing in a drenching downpour with nothing left,” she said. “It was surreal.”
She recalls later the credit union board room serving as a grocery store handing out free supplies to victims.
She also vividly recalls the routine Sunday afternoon with her husband watching a baseball game and she out in the backyard before hearing the first siren.
“We had been out there all day,” she recalled wryly. “We were pretty tired after trimming the shrubs and pruning flowers, since I think we had the most beautiful backyard in the neighborhood, but as it turned out we certainly didn’t need to spend all that time considering that was all wiped out, too.”