36. Dr. C.J. Huff on turning a Devastating Tornado into Resilient Communities

C.J. Huff

Our guest today is a Husband, Father, Inspirational Speaker, and Professional Consultant living in Joplin USA.  For 7 years he was Superintendent of Joplin Schools. He led his district of 1,100 employees and 7,700 students through the recovery effort of one of the most devastating tornadoes in U.S. history.

CJ Huff


Dr. Huffs’ Second Chance Story

  •  EF5  Tornado hit Joplin, Missouri on May 22, 2011
  • This wasn’t something that one could prepare for emotionally, mentally, or physically. They had 10 buildings that were damaged and 6 were destroyed with missing children, families, and workers.
  • People asked how to take the next steps forward and it felt like an insurmountable task.

Bonus Question

What was it in you that made you stay and care so deeply about everyone else when you could have left to be with your kids and family?

C.J. did miss his family however he knew they were all safe. When he was laying on a cot at night in the middle school he said a little prayer for the people caught in the storm and for clarity. He asked, ” What was the role of the School District, what was it we could bring to this?” He got back a clear answer, “We take care of kids on a day-to-day basis.” He then focused on how he could do this after the storm.

The Turn Around Point

Covered in the Bonus Question above.

Disaster Recovery First Steps Forward You can listen to the rest of the interview on the podcast: Here

A Closer Look

What about you changed the most from this experience?

  • In spite of all the negativity we see out there on the daily news, there are a lot of good people out there. He looks at humanity differently after witnessing the people who came out to help that didn’t know anyone at all.
  • He was humbled by the children of all ages that came out to help collect money and help out with the cleanup efforts without the influence of their parents. This helped him to have great faith in the future generation.

What wisdom would you share you gained?

C.J. Huff didn’t feel called to give wisdom however he shared what he learned.

  • It all comes down to relationships, relationships with God, his family and the community.
  • The kids that showed amazing resiliency had a good family support structure and a strong sense of faith. If they had at least one of these they had better odds of overcoming significant challenges.

One Personal Habit That Contributed To Working Through This

  • He worked! He tells us it is not always a good habit because he has good old farm work habits and can work and become too engrossed in the work.
  • His best habit is listening to his wife! He made sure to take a step back from time to time and spend time with his family. She was good at helping him to do this.

His Resources

What is one thing you are passionate about today?

Bright Futures USA is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing communities together to focus on the success of children.

Parting Piece of Guidance

Love your families and hug them every day. Know that every day could be that day…. We have to be prepared mentally, physically, and spiritually for things that are thrown our way.  When adversity happens, take a step back, get clarity first and then figure out step by step how to move forward.


Thank you to Courtney Blair at Zippy Content for the introduction and  Little Bird Marketing  for the fabulous bio.