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Mike is playing ball at Ryan’s house when he gets a phone call from his mom, who’s at friends’ house, telling him to head home because of an impending thunderstorm. Normally he would have asked to wait the storm out at Ryan’s, but he still has homework and it’s already after five on Sunday afternoon. He rides his bike to his house and goes inside when the tornado sirens start screaming. He checks the local weather on TV and sees a giant funnel cloud on the TV tower cam before the electricity goes off. He and his sister run for the basement. Then everything changes.
Although this novel is fiction, the events of the F-5 tornado that devastated Joplin, Missouri, are very real.
Q and A with Veda Boyd Jones regarding That Sunday Afternoon
Q: Why did you write this book?
A: I didn’t write it immediately after the tornado hit Joplin. The destruction and death were all too fresh. We only had a tree down in our yard and lots of branches strewn about. But our house was untouched and we weren’t harmed. That wasn’t true for some of our friends. After two years I was able to capture the survivor’s guilt I felt. I used events in the book that were experienced by me and my friends. By having my fictional characters walk through the worst of the debris to find Ryan’s dad, I was able to lay out what happened in a truthful way.
Q: Is Joplin back to normal?
A: To a new normal. The tornado zone is still there, even though the debris is gone and houses have been built in the area. The trees are gone. New ones have been planted, but that area will always be a scar in my lifetime because it takes so long for trees to mature. That’s why I gave Mike the idea of planting trees in the book.
Q: Where were you when the tornado hit?
A: Jim and I were home. I went to the basement when the sirens went off. We could feel the pressure in our ears, and we could tell when the storm had passed by the pressure lessening. I used those feelings in the book. I let Mike live in our house on our street, so it was all familiar to me.