The evening was getting dark, the clouds were building. It was tornado season here in Kansas and this evening sure had all the signs.
I ran across the street to our small hospital to check on the staff and patients. We all huddled around the television set for weather updates.
Tornado sirens were going off but we knew it was forming mainly to the north of us. The regular TV programming just wasn't going to happen on this day..the weatherman were jumping out of their skin with this storm system.
We started hearing the weirdest thing coming across the scanner. EMS was heading up to the next town because we were getting reports that it had been hit. They were saying that half of the town had been wiped out.
I have to admit that I rolled my eyes at that report. It was dark, the electricity was out. I figured the truth would come out in the morning and things wouldn't be as bad. I mean really...half a town?
A patient showed at our emergency room. He'd been taking a shower when the storm hit his house which was on the highway north of our town. He heard the tradition 'train was coming' sound and he ran to get his family safe and was struck be flying debris. He said the road was completely blocked north of his house. Trees, telephone poles and power lines were lying around as if someone had blown around a pile of toothpicks.
Our ambulances were having trouble getting up north. A road would be impassable. They'd go around to find another impassable road. It took an hour and a half to travel a distance that normally only took about 20 minutes.
We were beginning to have a sinking feeling that things were bad up north. Real bad.
We found out that the hospital had been hit by the tornado also and there wasn't anyway that not only the people injured by the tornado could be cared for but that the patients already in the hospital were now exposed, wet, without any medications or even their basic possessions.
Before that night was over our hospital was full to overflowing with the most stable patients from the tornado. There were a few broken bones that were splinted. Lots of elderly people that were physically and mentally debilitated.
The news continued to get worse as the night progressed and it was as bad as we could have ever imagined by the light of day.
The town north of us is Greensburg. The destruction was 90% of this town was destroyed. Not just damaged..but destroyed.
It has been two years and I still drive through this town at least once a week. It is slowly beginning to come back. There are still a LOT of vacant lots. There is still not a downtown to speak of. The hospital is still operating out of a series of connected trailers. The school has farmed the kids out to surrounding towns.
But the people are still there. They are rebuilding. They are rebuilding things better than ever. The trees still have an alien quality to them but here and there you can see a flowerbed that has been restored. There is a park with playground equipment standing in the middle of vacant lots and a few brand new homes. The street lights have been replaced. A grocery story now stands. The John Deere dealership is rebuilt.
I love my state. I love my neighbors. We are truly solid people in this part of the world. Here's to you Greensburg.