Former Kansas University basketball player Jeff Boschee, his wife, Jamie, and daughter, Mary Rose, were not caught in the path of Sunday afternoon’s deadly tornado in Joplin, Mo.
Safe and sound at Jamie’s parents’ house in nearby Columbus (Kan.), Boschee, an assistant coach at Joplin’s Missouri Southern State University, and his loved ones watched TV for live updates on the twister.
It’s a storm that claimed more than 100 lives and flattened neighborhoods, but did not hit Boschee’s house a mile north of Joplin in Webb City and did not harm Jamie’s salon and day spa business on South Main Street in Joplin.
The tornado also did not strike any buildings on the MSSU campus where Boschee has worked the past two seasons.
“It’s a huge relief to know your family is safe, but it’s terrible that so many other people out there are affected in so many ways,” Boschee said Monday afternoon, an hour after his cell phone service resumed after being knocked out for about 20 hours.
“The people that passed away ... lots of prayers go out to each and every one of those people,” Boschee added.
With heavy hearts, he, Jamie and Mary Rose returned to their Webb City home about 9:30 p.m. on Sunday.
“Our neighborhood is fine. We’ve got a lot of friends and family that were hit pretty hard, especially in the area by St. John’s Hospital where the houses are completely gone. It’s pretty crazy stuff to have this hit home, not necessarily directly, but have friends and family hit directly by this,” Boschee said of some close acquaintances incurring severe property damage.
The tornado hit the hospital head on and splintered buildings such as the local Dillons and Walmart and sporting goods store.
Actually, thousands of buildings were damaged or destroyed.
“T.J. Williams, who is a player on our team … the house he rents is gone. He’s the only player on our team that was really affected,” Boschee said, indicating school let out a week ago. “Skyler Bowlin (player) was at a movie theater when it hit. When he got back out he saw devastation everywhere.
“My sister-in-law and brother-in-law work for my father-in-law’s electrical company. They are out right now assessing the damage out in the worst part. They said you don’t even know where you are at. It’s unrecognizable. Jamie’s uncle’s son-in-law has four rental properties. They were out driving around looking for the properties. They couldn’t even find them. They didn’t know where they were at (with street signs down and neighborhoods razed).”
The 31-year-old Boschee — who stayed out of Joplin Monday morning to let emergency workers be able to do their jobs — finally drove to work Monday afternoon.
But not to his office.
“There’s a shelter at the university. I’ll try to help out there,” Boschee said.
As far as the town’s rebuilding ... he’s hoping for the best.
“It looks terrible, something you’ve never seen before,” Boschee said of Joplin. “Joplin High School is totaled. They’ll have to rebuild it.
“Other towns have had the ability to rebuild. At a time like this, you don’t know how. You don’t know where to start. It’s kind of spooky. It’s kind of scary, but things will be rebuilt I’m sure. Things will be brighter a month or two down the road, but just looking at it now, you don’t understand how (this happened) and where you are going to start.”
The important thing, of course, is Boschee and family members are safe.
“I’ve heard from some of our KU guys — Nick Bradford, Brett Ballard. The guys texted and stuff to see if we were all right. I was able to text last night but not able to talk to anybody on my phone until today. It’s been crazy.”