Newlyweds left homeless following deadly tornado in Joplin

Tegan Hill and her new husband, Danny, married in April and moved to their first home together in Joplin, Missouri, just weeks before the deadly tornado of May 22. Now, they're both homeless and left with a future of uncertainty.

Story and photos by Laura Reinhardt, World Vision U.S.
Published May 26, 2011 at 12:00am PDT

"I just want to come back home, but I don't really have a home to come back to," says Tegan Hill, 19.

Tegan and her husband, Danny Bassey, 21, married in April. Two weeks before the tornado, they moved into their first home together in Joplin.

Returning to what was, but is no more

On May 22, an EF5 twister stormed through the city, leaving a six-mile path of destruction in its wake. Now, Tegan comes every day to sit in the rubble of what was once their home.

"I just come over here and I have that chair out front. I'll just sit out there," she says. "Or I'll just come sit on the bed and just look. And just remember. I wasn't here that long, but I still have memories."

Her eyes fill with tears as she speaks. "I want to come here as much as I can, until it won't be here no more, just to be here — to see what I had for a little bit of time."

'It's horrible'

Tegan Hill, 19, stands amid the ruins of her bedroom on the second story of her home. Behind her, the entire neighborhood is decimated, looking like a war zone. Photo: ©2011 Laura Reinhardt/World VisionThe couple wasn't at the house when the tornado struck Joplin. But the next day, the sight of her destroyed home devastated Tegan.

"I didn't think it was going to be that bad," she says. "It's horrible."

Tegan also had a new car. It was just what she'd been looking for, with the black and red interior she so wanted. The car was parked in front when the tornado roared through.

Now, it's in what's left of a neighbor's front yard — a twisted metal heap, like a giant, injured insect on its back.

"We planned to be here for a long time. We were going to start a family and everything here," she says.

An unexpected, devastating blow

She knows they can get a new house. But this was their first place. They'll never be able to bring their children into this place and reminisce about their first home together.

"Right when you're starting out, when you moved in and got everything ready and it started to feel like home, and then it got taken away," she reflects. "I loved where it was. I loved the neighborhood and just being in Joplin."

Since she was 4 years old, Tegan lived with her grandparents in neighboring Carthage. Now, she and her husband have returned to her childhood home while they are homeless.

'I'm still here for a reason'

Though the sky is now blue, it contrasts starkly with the trees ripped bare of their foliage in this neighborhood of Joplin. Photo: ©2011 Laura Reinhardt/World VisionShe tries to keep a positive outlook, even though the young couple has lost everything and had no renter's insurance.

"I'm still here for a reason. If I was supposed to be gone, God would've took me when this happened," she says.

For now, Tegan continues her daily visits to her old house. "If I could stay the night here, I would. But they won't let anybody stay here."

She says that for now, they're just taking things one day at a time. They don't know what the future holds for them. "I would move back to Joplin, but I don't think Joplin's going to be back to Joplin for a very long time," she concludes.

Two ways you can help

Please continue to pray for families left devastated by the massive tornado that struck Joplin, as well as those affected by other recent tornadoes that have caused destruction across the United States. Pray for comfort and recovery for those in greatest need.

Make a one-time gift to our U.S. Disaster Response Fund. Your contribution of any amount will help us deliver critical assistance in the wake of emergencies right here in the United States, like the tornadoes in Missouri, Minnesota, and Alabama.