Home of the World's Largest Hand Dug Well, and Largest Pallasite Meteorite!
My mother's family homesteaded just a few miles southeast of Greensburg, Kansas at the turn of the last century. I was born in the local hospital, and spent my grade school years there. All my family, from my grandfather's generation through my older siblings, graduated from Greensburg High School.
On May 4, 2007, a EF-5 tornado all but destroyed this town where I was born and raised.
Just the night before, my sibs and I had been discussing the possibilities of meeting in Greensburg to inter my mother's ashes around Memorial Day. She passed away 2 years before, and her memorial service took place where she lived after leaving Greensburg in the mid-60's. We siblings are spread out over the western half of the U.S. of A., and hadn't managed a time to get back to our hometown to bury Momma's ashes with Daddy. Now it looked promising with certain travel plans and arrangements that we could all be there over Memorial Day.
Friday night, while watching TV, I got a phone call from my brother saying it looked like Greensburg was getting hit by a tornado. Being raised in southwestern Kansas, my experiences with tornadoes were of those skinny little funnels that dip and touch and raise and hit and miss. As the events were unfolding real-time, it was very difficult that night to get any definite news, but as the story developed, it appeared this tornado didn't miss much. Almost two miles wide, it covered pretty much the entire town, Greensburg not being that big.
When I woke Saturday morning, I grabbed a cup of coffee, and turned on the national news while I exercised. I was stunned. As the weekend developed, Dearest Sister and I spent time on the phone, each on our own computer, looking at the aerial photographs, trying to identify landmarks. It seemed in each photo the house where we grew up was just outside the shot. (We found out later the back part of the house was damaged, with the roof, and later had to be demolished.)
The hospital I was born in, where my broken arm was set, and my chin was stitched up...gone. (Incidentally, BFF was working there that night.) The church turned antique store where we were baptized...gone. The water tower that marked the town, symbolically pointing the way to the Big Well, and occasionally overflowed (to our delight!)...on the ground. The schools we attended...gone.
The swimming pool...still there!
We were able to take care of Momma over Memorial Day weekend,burying her ashes 48 years to the day after my father died. It was going to be just Mom's kids, a couple of nieces and nephew, and some grandkids at the cemetary, but word had gotten out. Others started showing up, and kept coming. When it was time for us to say our good-byes, there were twenty or so other people there, some who had lost a good deal, who had a lot of unanswered questions about what they were going to do. Nevertheless, they came to say good-bye to this woman who had been a part of their community years before.
It is almost two years later, and Greensburg has embarked upon rebuilding. Leonardo DiCaprio even produced a TV show about their efforts to rebuild as green as possible. Some left after the tornado, but many stayed. And that is right, and good. But the town I grew up in is only in my memories.
We have another family get-together planned in Greensburg this Memorial Day when Wisest Sister and Only Brother celebrate their High School Reunions there. Dearest Sister and I will be hangers-on, providing comic relief, no doubt, and spending some time with Dear Aunt. It will be interesting to see the progress, and fun to see folks.
But I will miss the old town.