State Representative Rides Out Tornado in Tub
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
Dennis McKinney lives in Greensburg. He's also a Kansas state representative. He and his 14-year-old daughter, Lindy, survived the tornado by huddling together in a basement bathtub. McKinney says they were expecting a neighbor and her baby to take shelter with them but the two never showed up.
DENNIS MCKINNEY: And we're really there for a minute. Two minutes, just a couple minutes and that It's just off (Unintelligible). A minute and a half or so, you know, the whole town was gone.
NORRIS: Now, this is a neighbor who didn't have a basement, and you were hoping that she would make a way to your house. Ride out the tornado with you.
MCKINNEY: And we started digging and my daughter's there. She held the flashlights and pretty soon, we saw these little pair of legs and we pulled some stuff back and there's this baby, about a 1-year-old boy looking up at me. Big eyes, not crying, and I pulled him. He's looking at me like what took you so long. I pulled him out and he didn't have any clothes. And he has diaper on it. Didn't have a scratch on him. Pulled him out (Unintelligible) scratch on him and we did some more digging. Get his mom out and she was able to walk away. But we think we've lost some friends. We still haven't seen the fatality list. We knew of a few people we know lost their lives. I think when the fatality list comes out, you can see the grieving really get started here. And we still have a lot of the grieving process to go through.
NORRIS: So you know that there are people who perished in the storm but right now many people don't know who's on that list.
MCKINNEY: Yeah. We don't all the people who are critically injured and we don't - we have not seen the fatality list. In fact, the pastor from my church was able to get back in town today and I got him hooked up with emergency operations. And so he could see the fatality list. You know, which one are in his congregation and he could attend to them.
NORRIS: You know, sadly this is not the first time that a town in Kansas has been leveled by a tornado. What happened, historically, when an entire town is obliterated by a tornado? Do they come back? Do they merge with the next town. Imagine you're thinking about this right now, the likelihood that the town will rebuild.
MCKINNEY: The one reason I think we'll rebuild because it's a beautiful place to raise a family. You know, it's one of those places where you can call up your neighbors and say, hey, have you seen my daughter? Have you seen Lindy around? And they go and say, yes, she's up here. Well, okay, just checking. And they know, if they do make a mistake, they can do something wrong, usually the news gets home before they get home. It's juts a great place to live.
NORRIS: In one of the questions I guess I have to ask, because you're now trying to work your way through the rubble. If the State's deployments - the national guards and of reserves deployments in Iraq - haven't all hampered the rescue and recovery effort.
MCKINNEY: Another thing I remember, in this part of Kansas is all small town's so the vast majority of EMT that show up on the ambulances, the vast majority firefighters has show up, I think like this are volunteer. They're not professional. They're taking time away from their regular jobs. You know, the spirits that have around here and we support each other.
NORRIS: A lot of practical decisions have to be made in the coming days. Now, where will people live? Where will children go to school? If people get sick, where will they go to hospital?
MCKINNEY: You realize how the community networks because we've got people with no money, no cars, have lost their driver's licenses. The banks are close. They can't access the money in their accounts and you realize how it all works together. And - but there's a good - great effort going on to get things going again.
NORRIS: If I can just ask before we say goodbye, how is your daughter doing?
MCKINNEY: She's doing fairly well. You know, she's still struggling. It's still sinking in and today - for the first time - she'd been back in town in the daylight since the storm. You know, I think we still have a lot of talking and a lot of healing that - she got to see some of her friends today and, you know, they held each other and cried and talk to each other and I think that was the beginning of the healing process. Right there (Unintelligible) some good there.
NORRIS: Well, Representative McKinney, thank you for - I know you're a busy man. Thank you for taking time to talk to us.
MCKINNEY: Thank you for caring. We - you know, we are just a small town in fabulous Kansas who didn't think anybody knew where we were cared. It's just nice to know that everybody does cared and I appreciate you being concerned.
NORRIS: And all the best to you and your family, sir.
MCKINNEY: Thank you.
NORRIS: That was Representative Dennis McKinney. He's a resident of Greensburg and he represents the town in the Kansas State Legislature.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.