Ty and the team make their way to tornado-ravaged Joplin, Missouri, for the series finale of one of the most life-changing show in TV history!
On May 22, 2011, a catastrophic tornado ravaged the town of Joplin, killing approximately 160 people and destroying nearly 8,000 houses. Some of the Joplin families lost friends, some lost children, and all lost their homes. The Extreme Team will help create seven beautiful homes in just seven days. It's unbelievable. It's unprecedented. And it's going to happen.
The families united at a local park after the tornado, so the team refurbishes that park. They also create a new playground and a poignant memorial site to those volunteers who came to the aid of others during and after the tornado. CVS puts together thousands of emergency supply kits for the community should there ever be another emergency in Joplin. Sears also provides all the essentials to make all the new houses into family homes.
The parents and children from all seven Joplin families are whisked away on a dream vacation to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, while team leader Ty Pennington, designers Paul DiMeo, Paige Hemmis, Michael Moloney and Tracy Hutson, along with Sam Clifton from Millstone Custom Homes, who is lead builder for 21 builders, and approximately 13,000 Volunteers and community volunteers build the structures and work on the local park. Get ready for seven amazing stories about seven courageous families who will get a fresh start once they MOVE THOSE BUSES!
Kyle, the father and a Joplin fireman, was at work at the fire station during the storm and spent the first two hours after the tornado not knowing if his wife and kids had made it out alive. He made many stops along the way home, through the rubble, rescuing trapped victims and tending to injured members of the community. Meanwhile Jill and their children, Konnor, Korbin and Kaleb, huddled in a closet. A door landed on top of them, which they used to deflect the debris. This ultimately saved their lives. After the storm, they had no idea if Kyle was alive, but eventually the family, along with older son Keenan, who was out of town at the time, was reunited. Jill sustained minor injuries, but their home was completely destroyed.
The family's new home features a red top exterior and terrific stonework. Kyle's firefighter coat is put in a frame and mounted above the fireplace in the new home. It's been signed by all the workers. A door that once served as a protective shield now serves as a dining room table. The kids all get bedrooms to match their interests and personalities. The family also gets their very own storm shelter for any future emergencies.
Single mom Crystal Cogdill works for the Joplin Housing Authority. She has a passion for helping people find housing, but in a cruel twist, now finds herself homeless. In the tornado, Crystal lost her 9-year-old son, Zach Treadwell. Her other son, David, survived. Upon hearing the sirens, she hustled her kids inside the house and, following her emergency plan, huddled with them in the bathtub. As the home came apart around them, she felt her grip on her children weakening. The storm eventually overpowered her and ripped the kids from her arms. When she next saw Zach, his lifeless body was pinned beneath a utility pole. Stunned, Crystal finds her friend (also named Crystal). The two friends soon make a horrifying discovery; both of them have lost children to one of the most devastating weather events this nation has ever endured.
The beautiful interior is filled with pictures of Zach. David has his very one Spider-man lair for a bedroom. Crystal's room has more family pictures. One of Zach's favorite things was a snakeskin. That's now preserved in a beautiful frame.
Before the storm, Crystal Whitely was the ultimate single mother taking care of her three kids and working as a personal care aid. Crystal loved working with her clients that were disabled and elderly, but her kids are her life. The night of the storm, the whole family took cover in the bathtub, but moments later, the house was pulled off its foundation. Though she tried desperately to hang on to them, 10-year-old Shante and 6-year-old Trentan were ripped from Crystal's arms. Only Crystal and her 4-year-old daughter, Keana, survived.
The oval windows on the family's new home give it a dollhouse feel. The inside is stunning with crystal chandeliers. Keana's room is fit for a princess, as it's filled with lots of Disney princess decor. There's a wall of photos commemorating the family that was lost and the ones who keep their memories alive. There's a beautiful healing garden out back that the family can share with their neighbors.
Kari and Justin Nevins love Joplin and prior to the tornado, their home was known as "the neighborhood's house," where kids could play, have refreshments and hang out. Kari is part of Bright Futures, a, organization whose goal it is to increase graduation rates through teaming with businesses and faith-based partners to provide for the needs of students. The parents, along with their children, Uriah, Avery, Cana and Rhoen, ran to the cellar. As they huddled together, they felt the force of the tornado as it ripped apart their house. After making sure his family was safe, Justin immediately started helping others by searching and digging neighbors out of the destruction. The tornado not only destroyed their home, it also destroyed the entire neighborhood and school Kari worked so hard to help.
The Nevins family is big on the environment, so their new home is a green as can be. Recycled bottles create the face of the family's new fireplace. The kids love their new bedrooms. One of them looks like a camp that comes complete with a rock wall. There's also a tornado-safe room with all the supplies you'd ever need.
In 2006, Tom and Emily Walters bought a house with dreams of raising their family in the beautiful, small town of Joplin. Emily is a nurse, and Tom a coach and teacher. Together they dedicated their lives to helping and nurturing the happiness and well-being of others. When the siren sounded on May 22nd, the family didn't realize what was coming their way. It started hailing and then, all of a sudden, it got worse. They ran to the bathtub. Huddled together, feeling the roof rip off and objects hurling around, 9-year-old daughter Chloe cried out to her mom and dad, "Don't let me die!" Feeling helpless, all Tom and Emily could do was pray with Chloe and ride out the storm. As soon as it passed, Tom and Emily knew people in the neighborhood would need help. After making sure their daughter was safe with a neighbor, they ran down to a nursing home that had caved in and began digging people out. Along with others, Tom and Emily helped rescue several people. With their home destroyed and unable to be rebuilt, they've moved from place to place.
The family loves the beach, so their new home is done with the feel of a beach-style cottage complete with a boardwalk that leads up to the front of the house. Inside, there's a sail coming down from the wall in the main room. A skateboard-themed bedroom and practice ramp in the yard should keep the kids on a roll for a long time.
Thang Nguyen came to the U.S. in search of the American dream. Thang was in the Vietnamese Air Force and fought alongside the U.S. during the Vietnam War. Afterwards, he was able to move to the U.S. with his family and took a job with General Mills in Joplin. He was on the verge of retirement when the May 22nd tornado took away his dream. That Sunday night, Thang had a craving for seafood. Though his wife, Tiffany, had already prepared dinner, Thang convinced her to go out to eat at a local seafood restaurant. It was lucky for them that she gave in. The tornado missed the restaurant but tore apart their home. Had they stayed in that night, they may not have survived. The Nguyens had been living with Tiffany's daughter, Sara, and their granddaughter, Alex. The Nguyens received help from a local church and are living in an apartment funded by insurance.
The family's new home has a beautiful new interior with top-notch feng shui. There's a piggy-themed bedroom for the youngest member of the house and beautiful new master bedroom.
Having both been divorced, Natalie and Scott didn't think they would remarry. But when the tornado took their home, they changed their minds. Before moving to Joplin, Natalie once saw a special about earthquakes. She learned that putting a bicycle helmet on your child's head could save his/her life. When the tornado hit, the family huddled in their bathtub, with Scott on top holding on to a mattress and Augie wearing a bicycle helmet. The roof flew off. Scott was picked up off the family and thrown back down in the bathroom. A toilet from the second bathroom flew through the air and hit Augie. The bicycle helmet he was wearing shattered to pieces but saved Augie's life.
Natalie was pelted with debris while trying to protect her son, severely hurting her back. While up in the air, Scott watched his family. It was at this moment that he realized, if they all survived, he wanted to marry Natalie and become a legal stepfather to Augie. When the wind started to calm down, Natalie realized they were in the eye of the tornado and their house was gone. Realizing they wouldn't survive the second wave, Natalie and her family rushed over to a drainage ditch to find cover. Watching Scott carrying her son with his good arm (the other suffering a compound fracture), Natalie knew Scott would be her husband. They survived the tornado, broken and without a home. Scott proposed to Natalie a few weeks later. And while on vacation, the team flies Natalie's older son, Joshua, in to so that he can give his mom away at a wedding that take place with the families new neighbors watching on.
The new home feature a giant message on the wall in the kitchen. It reads: It's the love of a family that turns a house into a home. There's a safe room that will keep them safe in the event of another emergency. Scott loves the house, but the thing he loves even more is the fact that Joplin will rebuild and the people will move on.
In this series finale, the Extreme Team didn't just help build a house, they helped restore a neighborhood. Life has come back to Joplin and it will continue to come back. Every one of the 12,000 volunteers that helped with the build took a piece of yarn to string along a giant map. It started from wherever that person came from and ended in Joplin. It's a gift for the entire city.
The fact that seven houses were built in seven days proves that anything is possible when people work together. That's been a theme in just about every episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Welcome home, Joplin families and thank you, EM: HE, for nine amazing, emotional, inspiring seasons. Homes were built, love was spread and lives were changed.