The devastation and aftermath of the tornado that hit Greensburg, KS (population 1,574) on May 4, 2007 was difficult for my wife and I to comprehend and process. We were there earlier this week to do a talk to the survivors who are slowly rebuilding their lives. It was a very emotional tour, especially in talking with many who hunkered down in their basements as winds of over 200 mph whirled above.
Several told of how their ears popped that night with the pressure from the storm and how their hearing had still not returned to normal. The devastation and complete loss of everything that they and their neighbors owned, including baby pictures and other momentos, was obviously painful for several to retell.
It was, by far, the most difficult talk that I’ve had to give in the 300 or so that I’ve given in the past three years. I wanted to share with them the experiences of other towns that have been devastated by fire, floods, hurricanes, tornados and other natural disasters, hoping that the successes that those towns were able to achieve might console and inspire the citizens of Greensburg to envision how they want to rebuild their community. Their response to what I had to say was overwhelming.
Mayor John Janssen, FEMA Coordinator Benjamin Alexander and local banker Steve Kirk, who invited me to Greensburg, spent several hours with us showing us the remnants of the town. They and others in the town are deep into the plans of how to rebuild the community for the future. A land use plan, rerouted roads and a new industrial park are among the items being discussed.