Tragedy struck Joplin, Missouri, on May 22 in the form of an F5 tornado, taking more than 160 lives and destroying wide swaths of the town where Mike Moore grew up. Moore, EVP and President of Walmart Central, immediately jumped in his car and headed back home to help in the town’s recovery. Joplin is rebuilding, and the recent reopening of the Walmart destroyed by the tornado has been part of the town’s healing. Mike spoke with The Green Room about his memories of that day, the resilience of the community and the commitment to open a new Walmart built with state-of-the art energy efficiency and recycled material from the original Store 59.
Q: What was your reaction when you’d heard Joplin had been hit by a tornado?
A: My father called and said that Joplin had just been hit by an F5 tornado. The hospital, it was on fire, and he thought that our store had been damaged or may be destroyed. You know, the (thing) you think about is friends, family, loved ones. It went right through the heart of town, right through an area that’s heavily populated by young families.
Q: As a Joplin native, what was the most difficult process for you?
A: Probably that night after I left the store. It was about 3:30 in the morning; I drove through the middle of town. The landmarks you grow up seeing you can’t find anymore. So the high school is gone, the local park is destroyed, buildings. My grandparents’ house was gone, the church I was married in was gone, the first house I lived in with my wife was gone. Everything that you remember is kind of gone.
Q: What did you notice first after your return to Joplin after the storm?
A: The spirit of people. You see people helping one another. When I got to the store there were people who didn’t belong to Walmart in any way, shape or form, but they were helping dig out rubble.
Q: How do you feel about Walmart’s role in the recovery effort?
A: Our store had been there for as long as I can remember, since I was a little, little boy. And so I felt like Store 59 – we needed to play a big role in the recovery effort. So we did things immediately around the American Red Cross and United Way, making sure they had funds to take care of the necessities of life right away. Then we thought about the schools. We did this big back-to-school fair, where we provided free school supplies, socks, underwear, T-shirts, health screenings. The park when I grew up in Joplin, the main park was called Cunningham Park, and (it) was destroyed. And (to make) sure it got built back, we jumped in and provided funds. We’re going to dedicate that park to the children that lost their lives in the tornado.
Q: What’s the most compelling and environmentally friendly feature in the Joplin store?
A: We captured and recycled as much metal, wood, floor and ceiling tiles, concrete, asphalt and other materials, as possible. We crushed more than 17,000 tons of building and site concrete into aggregate and reused it as aggregate base under the slab, footings, pavement and in the utility trenches.
We also demolished in place the irrigation system and re-installed drip irrigation and smart controllers. We reutilized 60 percent of the existing storm lines, 80 percent of the sanitary sewer lines, and 60 percent of the existing water lines.
We are also the first store in Missouri to have energy-efficient LED lighting in the parking lot. The store itself includes energy-efficient technology so that we can reduce energy and water consumption and minimize waste. Our skylights harvest daylight and reduce the amount of energy required to light the store by as much as 75 percent daily. Our LED lighting operates 70 percent more efficiently than fluorescent lighting.
Our new store also has a recycling program with organic composting and will promote sustainable product purchases.
Q: What do you hope the store will symbolize as the Joplin residents continue to rebuild?
A: It was amazing how many people showed up for the grand opening. There was a lot of hugging and crying. For me, it's one of those things…(suddenly) the town you grew up in really needs help – and I can’t do anything personally, you know? One person isn’t big enough, but you have the backing of a great company that says, "We've been there a long time, we need to do something." They're not trying to give you a budget or give you a guideline, or tell you what to do. They're just saying, "Do what you think is right," and made it really easy to do.