Nightly News   |  May 22, 2013

Lessons learned from Joplin

Two years after a tornado destroyed much of Joplin, Mo., the town has come back even stronger with changes to their infrastructures that are helping people stay safe. Now, nearly 80 percent of new homes include a safe room, and a new hospital will open in 2015 with windows able to withstand 250 mph winds. NBC’s Erica Hill reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> finally tonight i have here with me on the desk a brick from joplin high school . they were kind enough to give a few of these out to various folks with ties to that community. the bricks are a cherished symbol of all that was lost two years ago today when an ef5 twister tore up joplin including the high school . a third of the town was destroyed. 162 people lost their lives. now some of joplin 's first responders have gone to moore, oklahoma, to help out. back in joplin , the folks are talking about what they have learned these past two years. nbc's erica hill has our report tonight from joplin .

>> reporter: a new landscape is emerging in joplin , one that looks almost nothing like this 22-mile path of destruction .

>> devastation is a short while, but determination lasts all the time.

>> reporter: determined to come back stronger. bethany first shared her story of survival with brian after she and her husband don rode out the tornado in this bathtub.

>> he got on top of me to take the brunt of most of it. and, you know, he's my hero.

>> reporter: don saved bethany , but he didn't survive. two years later, the void remains, but bethany is grateful for a second chance.

>> i get to say thank you for -- letting me have this life. but i get to live it for him, too.

>> reporter: a life that now includes a 4-month-old daughter who bethany calls her inspiration. there is plenty of inspiration to be found here. nearly 90% of affected businesses are now open. 75% of homes have been rebuilt, and 80% of new homes now include a safe room. mercy hospital , a new facility will open in 2015 with walls and windows built to with stand 250 miles per hour winds. its electrical systems securely buried under ground.

>> joplin is a city of hope . we know what it's like to suffer, but we also know what it's like to get back up.

>> try to say the right things that can come even whenever it doesn't seem there could be another bright day .

>> reporter: there is much to celebrate as this town rebuilds, but it is the strength of its people that is the true measure of success. erica hill , nbc news, joplin , missouri.