Tuesday, July 15, 2008

An Unforgettable Trip...

The only building left standing on main street--a bank building that suffered damage, but is still standing.

First, I have to say "thank you" to all who were praying. I could definitely feel the effects of your prayers.

We arrived at my mom and dad's on Saturday, July 5th. After spending some time with my mom and one of my sister's families, my mom took us to Greensburg.

I can only describe the experience as surreal. As we drove toward town, all looked as usual. However, as we entered the city limits, I felt like we had driven into some foreign country. Nothing looked the same. The familiar landmarks were not "disfigured," my friends. They were GONE. Empty lots everywhere. Weeds growing in empty lots. Homes being rebuilt, but often not by the same people who used to live there. And usually, the house faced a different direction or at least sat differently on the lot. Scattered here and there, were the few homes that did survive or that still haven't been removed. The building above survived, but with damage. The court house is the only other historic building that survived. The renovations on it began this past week. I felt so lost, driving down once-familiar streets that were not even remotely familiar now. One of the hardest things to see was the weed-covered lot, and empty hole, where the church (I grew up in) once stood. Now there is NOTHING. I even asked my mom if she was sure this was the right spot?

The view from the grain elevator. Those empy lots and holes used to be homes.

How can I describe to you the amazing feeling, though, of being among people who have literally lost everything, and yet carry on and survive? How can I describe the feeling of talking to people whose whole lives now center around "before the tornado, " and "after the tornado". I heard those words repeatedly. How can I explain how it feels to hear people say over and over again, "I'm not the same since the storm. I have short-term memory problems. I used to be this way, but I haven't been like that since the tornado." How do I put into words how their lives have changed, and yet they go on, day by day, doing their best to live "normal" lives and rebuild what they've lost? No one who lived in or near Greensburg on May 4, 2007, will ever be the same.

How can I tell you in mere words how thankful the people are for the hundreds of volunteers who have shown up to help them? There are signs all over town, with "thank yous" to various groups that have given so much to help them rebuild. And that includes all the emergency personnel and National Guardsmen who showed up in the aftermath.

My time spent with my sisters (except one, who, unfortunately couldn't make the trip out to Kansas to see us) was so wonderful. My nieces and nephew are all adults now, taking their strides into the world as grown ups. Boy, does that make me feel old! My oldest niece is building a home with the Mennonite Housing Project in Greensburg. She puts in way more than her required 10 hours per week, as she helps build her own home, as well as those of the others involved in the program. She has such a cute little house, sitting on this great corner lot.

There is so much to tell, and I feel like I'm not really doing a great job of expressing it all. Maybe another post?

Thanks again for your prayers. Please continue to pray for the community of Greensburg, KS. God isn't finished there, for sure!

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