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The nation's deadliest tornado in six decades killed 161 people in the small Missouri town on May 11, 2011.
Residents in Joplin, Mo., marked the one-year anniversary Tuesday of the massive tornado that ripped the town in half, killing 161 people and leveling scores of homes and businesses.
The city began a day of solemn remembrance with a sunrise service to honor the hospital staff, emergency workers and other survivors who sprang into action when the EF-5 twister struck on May 22, 2011, CBS News reported.
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"I've been blessed with a loss of memory of this event," 17-year-old Malachi Murdock told The Associated Press at the Freeman Hospital ceremony. "If I remembered, I'd probably be going through the same trauma a lot of these people are."
Murdock was on stage after a performance at the Stained Glass Theater when the twister shredded the building, killing three people inside. He was struck so hard in the jaw by flying debris that his parents didn't recognize him at the hospital, Murdock told the AP.
Groundbreaking ceremonies were planned Tuesday at the sites of three schools being built to replace those destroyed by the tornado -- the country's deadliest in six decades.
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A 4-mile walk through some of the city's most devastated areas began Tuesday afternoon and will conclude with a moment of silence at at Cunningham Park at 5:41 p.m. -- the exact time the twister packing 200 mph winds hit Joplin, CBS News reported.
On Monday night, President Barack Obama delivered the commencement address at Joplin High School, telling graduates that they and the town had inspired the world with their resiliency, the Kansas City Star reported.
“The story of Joplin is the story of what happened the next day,” he said. “And the day after that. And all the days and weeks that followed.”
Many Joplin residents live in fear of another devastating storm striking the town.
Judy Lowe lost nearly everything in last year's tornado, and keeps the few photos of her sons she salvaged in a concrete-reinforced closet with a steel door, CNN reported.
"This is just like having a lock box, and I know that I'm not going to lose these photos again," she told CNN. "I can replace anything that I can go to a store and buy, but I can never replace any of these things."