Kansas Tornado Survivors to View Remains of Town
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
REBECCA ROBERTS, Host:
Residents who want to rebuild Greensburg, Kansas, will have to reconstruct main street. Friday's tornado destroyed every business and every church and almost every home, which drew the attention of President Bush when he spoke to reporters in Washington.
GEORGE W: Our hearts are heavy for the loss of life in Kansas.
ROBERTS: From member station KCUR, Frank Morris reports on the strongest tornado to hit the United States in eight years.
FRANK MORRIS: In the high school gym turned shelter in nearby Haviland, Kansas, weary people stand on the court gazing up at the bleachers where their governor, Kathleen Sebelius, and Congressman Jerry Moran stand promising them financial assistance. But when the hometown politician Dennis McKinney, the Kansas House minority leader, steps forward to make some perfunctory announcements, the event is transformed into a tearful homecoming.
DENNIS MCKINNEY: (Unintelligible) disaster services reminds everybody to keep all of your receipts, because FEMA will reimburse on those receipts. I've seen most of you (unintelligible) tornado, it was sure good to see you.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)
(SOUNDBITE OF THUNDER AND RAIN)
MORRIS: But a few Greensburg residents catch up with the governor under an awning. They let her know they're tired of waiting to retrieve what little it is they have left.
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: Unidentified Woman #1: (Unintelligible) understanding of that...
SEBELIUS: Unidentified Woman #1: ...but we were there that night.
SEBELIUS: I understand.
INSKEEP: I mean, we walked (unintelligible).
SEBELIUS: And absolutely (unintelligible).
MORRIS: What are you going to do? What do you think you're going to do?
DAVE WILLIAMS: Get my insurance money and leave this state. I'm moving from Kansas. I have lived here all of my life except for a few years. I lived two years in Arizona; they don't have tornados in Arizona, and that's why I'm going. I'm headed out. I'm done with this state.
MORRIS: But Dave Williams appears to be the exception. Many are pledged to rebuild and others are still in shock. Chandra Morris(ph) had worked for years remodeling her Greensburg house. The tornado blew it away.
CHANDRA MORRIS: I had a goal, you know, and now it's gone so I don't know. It makes you just wonder what - I don't know. Got to rearrange my life, have another goal besides where I want to be, you know. Because that was home, and now home is gone.
MORRIS: Morris had lived catty-corner from what's purported to be the world's largest hand-dug well, a quirky old tourist attraction, one of the features that gave Greensburg a greater sense of civic pride in many South Central Kansas towns. Hanging out with his former neighbors at the school, Farrell Allison(ph) proclaims that Greensburg will be back. He knows that the streets and sewers remain intact, and not even the most violent, horrific tornado can wipe out the sense of community here or its signature landmark.
FARRELL ALLISON: The big well is still there, I hope. I mean, it's a hole in the ground, it ought to be still there, shouldn't it?
INSKEEP: Unidentified Woman #2: They just have to clean it up.
ALLISON: Unidentified Woman #2: Yeah, we just don't have our water tower.
MORRIS: For NPR News, I'm Frank Morris reporting.
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