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Kiowa County Signal - Kiowa County, KS
  • Anniversary weekend a mix of milestones and memories

  • Though there were no massive crowds or overflowing storefronts, small groups of visitors and area residents enjoyed a weekend full of events that showcased the progress made following the May 4, 2007 tornado.


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  • Though there were no massive crowds or overflowing storefronts, small groups of visitors and area residents enjoyed a weekend full of events that showcased the progress made following the May 4, 2007 tornado.
    On Friday there were a pair of memorials for the 11 residents who were killed on May 4. The headstone memorial, which had previously been located in a small park on the west side of town, was moved to the Big Well Park.
    City officials held a rededication ceremony early in the afternoon.
    Claude J. Hopkins’s granddaughter Julia Ohlde spoke on behalf of the families who lost loved ones.
    “On this day five years ago our lives were changed by a twist of fate. A fate that no one was expecting or knew how to stop, “ she said. “An EF5 tornado left this community lying in rubble. It also took the lives of some very special people. People that meant the world to us.”
    Ohlde thanked a number in attendance including the Kansas American Legion Riders (KALR), a group of American Legion motorcycle riders who had constructed the memorial four years ago.
    The parade of KALR arrived in impressive fashion, flying American flags in formation just minutes before the ceremonies began.
    “As I stand here I am pleased to say that just as our loved ones were called to their final home in heaven, the memorial has found its final home here at the Big Well Museum,” said Ohlde. “A place that will never be forgotten. On behalf of my family and all of the victim’s families, I would like to say thank you to Law Kingdon for including the memorial in the design, McCown Gordon Construction for building the museum, mayor Dixson for giving the memorial it’s forever home, Bill Ryan and all of the Kansas Legion Riders for making this dream possible and to the great city of Greensburg, for all of your love and support. From tragedy to triumph you are changing the world one day at a time.”
    At about 9:30 p.m. a crowd gathered at the same spot to commemorate the tornado, following a hug-filled, handshake laden ice cream social hosted by the Kiowa County Historical Museum.
    Greensburg United Methodist Church Pastor Terry Mayhew began the memorial with a prayer.
    “Father God we thank you for a beautiful night,” prayed Mayhew. “We thank you for your love poured out and for your presence in our lives. We thank you Lord that you have blessed us in so many ways, but we know Lord that we have many more ways to go. We know there is still pain and there is still hurt. But we also know Lord that you are there and you will walk with us.”
    Members of the local clergy spoke to the crowd about loss and grief.
    Page 2 of 3 - Pastor Mayhew spoke a passage from the Bible about light and the light of Jesus in the lives of the people of Greensburg.
    Though late evening winds attempted to play spoiler, most of the attendees lit their small candles and stood in silent memoriam. 
    “Let us pray,” continued Mayhew. “Father God we thank you, that you are the light of the world. We thank you lord for the reminder that sometimes our lights flicker. I ask you Lord that as we go from here tonight, that we would be reminded to look to the light that only you provide. That darkness cannot penetrate the light. That light penetrates the darkness.”
    Early Saturday morning nearly 80 participants ran the 5k Fun Run sponsored by the Greensburg Baptist Church and the bright green neon souvenirs worn by the runners were a constant sight throughout the afternoon.
    Following a packed house for Mike Smith’s presentation on the evolution of early tornado warning technology at the Kiowa County Senior Center, author Bob Froga read passages from his new book “The Greening of OZ.”
    Froga also signed copies of his book following the reading, inking his John Hancock on a copy for fellow writer and Kansas City Star contributor Aaron Barnhart, who was in attendance, along with numerous others.
    Lloyd Goossen, a local furniture maker who professes to have the first house blown down by the May 4, 2007 tornado, got a signature from Froga, who was quick to flip to a section of the book featuring a picture of two of Goossen’s clocks.
    The two atomic clocks were located at opposite ends of Goossen’s shop and stopped about two minutes apart, when the tornado hit his home about eight miles southwest of Greensburg.      
    “See, one [of these clocks] was in the front of our shop and one was at the back of our shop,” said Goossen pointing to the picture. “It’s kind of interesting and we found them both kind of lying around. I tried to call Greensburg at 9:37 p.m. on my cell phone and tell them that the house got wiped out, I tried to call 911 but it was already off.”
    Froga, a former mathematics professor and author lives in Lawrence and has been working on the book for the past three years.
    Lavada Rothe, Lisa Kelly and Lana Tillotson of Wichita added a stop in Greensburg to their weekend trip to Buffalo, Okla. They spent part of the day stopping at Main Street shops and walking around the new Big Well Museum.
    “We’ve driven by Greensburg before, but we’d never stopped,” said Kelly. “It’s nice here.”
    The trio had lots of praise for the town and also commented on how clean the city was.
    Page 3 of 3 - “Their choice to rebuild was a good one but we like that they kept the Robinett building, it’s so beautiful,” said Tillotson.
    The restored Hunter’s Drug Store Soda Fountain, part of the Kiowa County Historical Museum in the Commons building seemed to be one of the more popular places in town, with rarely an open seat.
    On Saturday evening Greensburg residents Bob and Nita Kilgore were enjoying ice cream cones and sodas at the fountain with Nita’s brother Jack Bailey and his wife Sue. The Baileys, who previously lived in Greensburg for 12 years, have been regular visitors since the 2007 tornado, having come to town directly after the tornado to help Bob and Nita.    
    “It’s amazing here,” said Mrs. Bailey. “I suppose the conservation of energy would be the number one benefit of the way they’ve rebuilt. I like the way it looks, it has a unique look. Greensburg was always kind of a unique town and it’s even more unique now.”
    “I’m impressed by the way it came back,” said Mr. Bailey, who grew up in neighboring Mullinville. “It reflects the quality of people who live here, it says a lot about them.”
    As the smell of Greensburg’s J.D’s B-B-Q, whose bright red trailer doubled as a blockade across Main Street, wafted across the nearby dirt lot, a small crowd listened to a band and drank beers provided by the local Rodeo Club.
    Across town at the United Methodist Church, the William-Inge Center for the Arts performed a staged reading of “Rooted: A Greensburg Odyssey.”
    Though the major roles were performed by professional actors, a choir of local actors participated in the two-hour long performance including Judi and Steve Kirk, Ann Dixson, Stacy Barnes and others.
    The Kiowa County Media Center recorded the performance, which drew lots of laughter from the overflowing pews of attendees.
    Sunday morning, as more than a dozen golfers hit the links for a Memorial Golf Tournament, an estimated 200 people attended the community church service in downtown Greensburg.
    “What a great time it is to be together, unified for the voice of god,” said Rev. Marvin George.
    Members of the local clergy sang, shared intimate stories and praised the still-recovering community as it makes its ways towards a hopeful, but uncertain future.
    “It was a great weekend,” said Mayor Bob Dixson on Monday afternoon. “Friday’s memorial was very well done. Saturday and Sunday had a real homecoming type reunion atmosphere with all of the key players coming back. And not just government officials, but a lot of our volunteers that came back. It was just a tremendous success.”
     
     
     

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