Vanessa returns to her old Joplin neighborhood one year later

â??I thought I heard some things on the roof, and I was hoping that the roof wasnâ??t going to fall in. But I was in my closet crying,â?? said Joplin resident Kate Inman.

â??I could hear the windows breaking, I could hear debris crashing in and go over my head and around me, and I just kept thinking, â??This is how Iâ??m going to die. This is how Iâ??m going to die. This is it,â??â?? said Joplin resident Marian Kelly.

â??We were caught in the rain wrap of the storm. There was nothing but debris and dirty rain. I couldnâ??t see anything in front of me,â?? said Joplin resident Michelle Hill.

These are some of the words of a few of my friends who brave enough to go on camera and tell me about their experiences of living through the May 22, 2011 EF-5 tornado going through and leaving a reign of terror in Joplin, Missouri.

As the tornado approached Range Line Road, the main commercial strip, near 20th Street at 5:52, it peaked in intensity with winds over 200 mph and was widest at this point, Home Depot, all of which were flattened. Heavy objects, including concrete bumpers and large trucks, were tossed a significant distance. Many fatalities occurred in this area.

Extreme damage continued in the area of 20th Street and Duquesne Road in southeast Joplin at 5:58. Many houses and industrial and commercial buildings were completely swept from their foundations in this area as well.

The tornado then continued on toward Interstate 44 where it weakened, but vehicles were flipped and mangled. The tornado dissipated at 6:12 P.M. leaving behind in Joplin what could be described as one wordâ?¦catastrophic.

â??I was able to get to the front door open and go outside. I heard screaming,â?? Kelly said.

â??It was absolute devastation. There was nothing left in that part of town,â?? Inman said.

â??You didnâ??t realize the magnitude of it. Seeing it on TV and hearing about on the radio was nothing until you started driving around town. Thatâ??s when you realized what just happened,â?? Hill said.

In all, 161 people were killed and more than 900 were injured, making it the deadliest tornado in the U.S. since 1947, and one of the deadliest single tornadoes ever recorded. About 8,000 homes were either damaged or destroyed by the tornado on the six mile path through Joplin. Damages were estimated at around $2.8 billion.

My trip back to Joplin to commemorate the one year anniversary of the May 22 tornado was also my first trip back since I left before that tragic day. As I drove around the â??tornado zone,â?? I was speechless and in shock to see the damage left behind first hand as I tried to recognize places and landmarks that I once knew.

But nothing would prepare me as I went to my old apartment complex by 20th Street and Connecticut Ave. There were absolutely no recognizable landmarks to tell me where I was or where my apartment used to be. My landlords had to point me to the exact spot where it was. There was nothing left of my apartmentâ?¦just a pile of dirt.

No words can describe how I felt at that very moment. For the first time in a year, reality finally settled in for me on how much of a monster this tornado was and just how lucky I was that I wasnâ??t in Joplin on that fateful day.

I had a quiet moment to myself, and for about 20 minutesâ?¦I cried. I cried because I thanked God for protecting me and saving me from this tragedy. I cried for the 161 lives lost on that day and those who were injured. I cried for those who lost their homes. I cried for the people who are forever traumatized and lives changed from that day. But most of all I cried for the city of Joplin, knowing the city has been changed forever.

To see raw footage of Joplin tornado damage, click here.

To see the raw interview of Vanessa's friend Kate, click here.

To see the raw interview of Vanessa's friend Marian, click here.

To see the raw interview of Vanessa's friend Michelle, click here.

To see pictures of Joplin while Vanessa was living there before the tornado, click here.

To see more pictures of Vanessa's trip to Joplin after the tornado, click here.