Tornado's Gifts: Greensburg Rebuilds, Revitalizes
LIANE HANSEN, host:
President Bush will be in Greensburg, Kansas today, one year after one of the most powerful tornadoes on record obliterated the small town. As Frank Morris of member station KCUR reports, you'll find an amazing revitalization.
FRANK MORRIS: This weekend the first shop to rebuild on Main Street Greensburg officially opened its doors.
Unidentified Man: Cut the ribbon.
MORRIS: Greensburg's churches, all 11 of them, destroyed in the tornado, pulled together to get this thrift store and food pantry open before any of them rebuilt. And while this building looks pretty typical, Ted Kyle, who's involved with the store, says it is super efficient.
Mr. TED KYLE: I mean, what we had before we couldn't even hardly afford to heat and cool. It's just so much better than it ever was before but we get to build a new normal. We get to build a new normal. I think that's exciting.
Mr. BOB DIXON (Mayor-Elect, Greensburg, Kansas): We live in exciting times here in Greensburg. These are times that we cannot be timid and we need to be moving boldly into the future.
MORRIS: Mayor-elect Bob Dixon surveys that movement from the broad front porch of his brand new house. Wind turbines, dozens of houses, and some of the world's most environmentally-friendly buildings have sprouted where the tornado left nothing but heaving, splintered rubble. The city is committed to rebuilding lead platinum, the highest standard awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council. That's no mean feat for what had been a faltering cash-strapped little town before the licking it took from an EF-5 tornado.
Mr. DIXON: The town was wiped out but the community was not. And the community is indeed stronger than ever. You know, I think you're going to see a state-of-the-art living laboratory.
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MORRIS: Next block over, students from the University of Kansas are working on a shoebox-shaped building sheathed in green glass, shading wood recycled from an old army ammunition plant. It's Greensburg's new community arts center, powered by sun, wind and heat from inside the earth. This thing's designed to lead platinum specifications, and it's been a learning experience for everybody, including the professor, Dan Rockhill.
How tough is it to get a lead platinum certification?
Professor DAN ROCKHILL (University of Kansas): It's borderline impossible.
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MORRIS: Undaunted, over at the John Deere Farm Implement dealership, proprietor Kelly Estes says they're rebuilding lead platinum too.
Mr. KELLY ESTES (Proprietor, John Deere Farm Implement Dealership): Shops waste a lot of energy, like mine. Tractor shops, combine shops. We're going to show them how they can build them shops way more - have a payback for them all across the country. Well, if you do that all across the country, it's not just Greensburg, it's paying back. It's the whole country.
MORRIS: John Deere's making the store here a national model for the way dealerships should be built, just as Greensburg itself may prove to be a prototype for building community sturdy enough to hold up against the century's crop of environmental, economic and social challenges.
For NPR News, I'm Frank Morris in Greensburg, Kansas.
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HANSEN: This is NPR News.
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