Greensburg experience difficult

  • When watching the weather on television Friday night, we knew Greensburg was probable for a tornado. Since my cousin Paul Unruh and wife Shirley live there, I took more notice of the warning than usual.

    My heart sank Saturday morning when I read an e-mail from Paul?s sister Carol that Paul and Shirley?s farm seven miles south of town had been hit and everything was destroyed.

  • I decided to help clean up. I knew other cousins and family members were going there Saturday, so I decided to wait until Sunday and take my brother-in-law along.
    Not knowing exactly how to get there because U.S. Highway 54 was closed at Pratt, we opted to take U.S. Highway 50 to Kins?ley and then south on 183 past the west side of Greensburg.

  • As we drove south of Greens?burg and reached the tornado?s path, the damage became apparent. Utility-company workers were replacing downed utility poles that had been twisted off at the ground and thrown out into the fields. Dead cattle were strewn about along the route.

    As we passed farms with total devastation, crews were already clearing the debris.

  • We pulled onto Paul and Shirley?s yard and at first didn?t see anyone and didn?t recognize any of the vehicles parked around the place. The two structures that were still there looked like they once were houses, but the roofs were gone and the walls were ripped apart.

    We eventually found Shirley working to salvage what was possible, and learned Paul was attending a meeting of the elders of their church in Greens?burg, which was also destroyed.

  • Cleaning up is one thing, but cleaning up in the rain, thunder and lightning?and hail?is another.

    It was an amazing sight to see as relatives, friends and neighbors all pitched in to make the best of the situation and did what they could to save what could be saved. Some were from the Hesston, Halstead and Moundridge area.

  • The basement was mostly in tact and the southwest bedroom where Paul, Shirley, daughter Nicole and grandson Jackson huddled just seconds before the storm hit looked normal.

    As the helpers packed up things from the basement into tubs for removal to off-site storage, the rain was dripping through the floor above, which was open to the sky. The only light came from flashlights since the electricity went off even before the tornado hit.

  • We packed a lunch but were invited for a sit-down meal at the rural Church of God in Christ, Mennonite church a couple of miles away. Gathered there were hundreds of volunteers from Oklahoma and Texas, many with Christian Disaster-Relief services.

  • The power of tornadoes is immense. On my cousin?s yard was a large crude-oil tank that probably came from the north about a quarter-mile away. A machine-shed door wrapped around the front wall of the house came from someplace else.

  • Where do they go from here? The idea of putting it all back together was already being discussed. Some of the land they farm has been in Shirley?s family for about 75 years. It is hard to walk away from a life they love.

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