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Tornado 'helps' Joplin resident downsize

Like many who survived the EF5 tornado that ripped through Joplin on May 22, 69-year-old Jim Wills and his wife rode it out in the bathtub.  Wills’ 1800 square foot house was destroyed, and now he plans on building again, but a smaller home, around 900 square feet.  "I wanted to downsize, I just didn’t want to do it in thirty minutes," Wills jokes.

Jim Seida / msnbc.com

A pile of rubble is all that remains of Jim Wills' garage in Joplin, Missouri on Tuesday, August 16. Wills' garage, home and all but one of his trees were blown away by the EF5 tornado that struck on May 22.

In addition to his home, he lost 30 of the 31 trees on his one-acre property.  His garage was also blown away.  "I had about $20,000 worth of tools," he says, "and now they’re somewhere between here and Springfield."  Wills and his wife have been living with his son’s family since the storm, but he says it's too crowded.

While talking with Wills, an SUV pulled onto his almost bare lot and two men got out offering to frame his house.  They were a father and son contracting team from Ft. Smith, Arkansas, two of many who have come to Joplin looking for work in this depressed economy.  Wills says he just may hire them to frame his house.  "At least I’m here to rebuild," he says, "a lot of ‘em ain’t."

Jim Seida / msnbc.com

Wills, center, talks goes over a floor plan of his proposed home with Arkansas builders Charles Rosser and his son Ronnie.

More from msnbc.com's reporting trip to Joplin:

Photoblog: Tornado 'helps' couple downsize

Photoblog: After tornado's harsh lesson, Joplin's child survivors return to school

Story: Joplin students head back to a new high-tech high school, in the mall

Slideshow: Joplin, before and after tornado cleanup