The Mystery of the Butterfly People in Joplin’s 2011 EF5 Twister
It's now been more than a decade since a tragic EF5 tornado devasted Joplin, Missouri. Did you know that there is a rainbow within that tragedy? It's the mystery of the "butterfly people" that children saw during that awful weather event.
Since my wife is a meteorologist, I know most of the facts about the tornado that destroyed much of Joplin on May 22, 2011:
- 5:34pm - Tornado touches down west of Joplin
- Rated EF5 with winds in excess of 200 miles per hour
- Twister cut a path 13 miles long during its 38 minutes on the ground
- 161 killed and over 1,000 injured
Beyond those hard and terrible facts are stories told by children of beings they saw within the winds of that storm. They called them "butterfly people". There's a Wiki page created from those stories which details what children said they saw:
While many children shared their story, one recurrent element is that as they were in the brink of death, the Butterfly People manifested before them, protecting them from the falling debris of the tornado. Some have also accredited seeing the Butterfly People carry off any of those close to death to the afterlife.
There is a sign in Cunningham Park that confirms these testimonies of children are true and accurate.
There are many who believe that these young children witnessed angels, but didn't know how to describe them except to say they looked like butterflies with their wings. Others claim these are just vivid child imaginations in a moment of great terror. If that's the case, why do hundreds tell the same story?
The "Butterfly People" Fandom Wiki page mentions that some believe this phenomenon is something more sinister theorizing that it's another appearance of The Mothman. The problem with that hypothesis is The Mothman has never been reported as a being that saves or protects.
Even more than 11 years later, this legend of "butterfly people" protecting those caught within those terrible winds endures. No one will ever know for sure, but for those children they were a calming force inside of one of the most devasting tornadoes in American history.