Joplin Hospital Demolishing Finally Coming To An End

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JOPLIN, MO (KPLR)-- For the people of Joplin, Missouri, demolishing the old Mercy Hospital building is not an ending, it`s a beginning.

"To see the old come down and the new go up I think will be a tremendous lift for the whole community," said John Farnen, Director of Planning, Development and Construction for Mercy, based in Chesterfield.

On May 22, 2011, the EF-5 tornado that tore through Joplin, slammed into the hospital with winds topping 200 mph.

Five patients and one visitor were killed, and the building was left so badly damaged it was beyond saving.

But taking it down has been slow, because blowing it up was not an option.

The hospital is surrounded by an old zinc mine.

'Our concern is if we took all that down and all that material, all those millions of pounds of weight hitting the ground, that there is a potential for uplift or additional settlement that might not otherwise happen,' said Dan O`Conner, Project Manager for Mercy.

Just one week after the tornado, Mercy hospital was up and running again, as a field hospital made out of tents in a parking lot across from the main building.  Eight months later, a new temporary building opened to replace the field hospital.

'It`s a modular unit that actually came on trucks from California,' said Mercy Spokesperson Angie Saporito.

The 224 sections went up quickly and will stay up until 2015, when a new Mercy Hospital campus will open on Joplin`s far south side.

And it is being built with tornados in mind, including laminated windows designed to withstand a hurricane.

'We are reinforcing the interior walls, we are going to create safe zones inside the hospital with storm doors,' Farnan said.

But before Mercy enters the future, it has to finish removing that symbol of its past.    

'This is the highest building in Joplin and it is a visible building and I think once it comes down completely it will be a new chapter in Joplin,' O`Conner said.

But one final chapter is also be written on that land because Mercy has donated the land to the city which will use part of it for a memorial park and museum, dedicated to the 161 who lost their lives, built on the spot where through the years, so many lives were saved.