ALTERNATIVE MINIMUM TAX -- (House of Representatives - May 08, 2007)
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Mr. MORAN of Kansas. I thank the gentleman from Pennsylvania for yielding time, and I thank the Speaker this evening for recognizing me.
Mr. Speaker, 20 minutes can go by in a flash; 2 minutes seems like an eternity. Last Friday night, Greensburg, Kansas, was struck by a devastating tornado. With 20 minutes' warning, I am sure the people of Greensburg did everything possible to protect their homes, their lives, to gather their loved ones, to find the basement, to seek the shelter. Twenty minutes is an awfully short period of time to try to save your life.
Two minutes, the time that it takes for the tornado 1 1/2 miles wide, winds blowing 207 miles an hour, 2 minutes it takes to destroy a community.
The losses last Friday night in Greensburg, Kansas, are significant. The photograph I have with me demonstrates the look of a town, a county seat town of Kiowa County, Kansas, population about 1,500. In many ways, a typical Kansas community; in many ways, a typical small town in rural America.
Mr. Speaker, I have been in Greensburg, Kansas, for the last 3 days. And perhaps what I see is typical, but what I see is heroics. From the moment the tornado struck, the people of Greensburg arose to the occasion, and every moment since then, their lives have been devoted toward making certain that people are okay, seeking recovery of their loved ones and their property, and trying to make certain that everyone is found and that life is preserved.
Mr. Speaker, 2 minutes did a lot of damage to a community; and yet in every conversation I had with the citizens of Greensburg, ultimately at least a small smile would come upon their face because they were able to count the blessings that they had despite the tornado. They were able to talk about the next opportunity they have to rebuild their lives, the people's whose lives were saved, the people whose lives are here today.
Mr. Speaker, this community has lost its entire housing structure. I walked through Greensburg for about 45 minutes on Saturday, a town that I represented as a State senator and now as a Member of Congress, and I found one home in that 45 minutes that I thought would be habitable.
The downtown business district is gone. You know, especially, Mr. Speaker, how difficult it is to preserve and enhance a business district in rural communities.
This is a community that has a business district maybe of six or seven
blocks, both sides of the street. But every business destroyed. Gone is the city hall. Gone is the high school. Gone is the grade school. Gone is the hospital. Gone is the library.
This community faces many challenges, Mr. Speaker. But in each and every instance, not only have the citizens of that community arose to the occasion, not only have the citizens of that community done everything they could to save lives and protect property; but now already they talk of, how do we rebuild our hometown?
I spent a little time with the national media who are covering this story in Greensburg, Kansas, and my guess is Greensburg, Kansas, is probably a foreign country to many of them. And their question is, as they look across the rubble that's demonstrated in this photograph is, Congressman, can you really believe that this community has a future; that they will be around 2 years from now, 5 years from now, a decade from now? And the answer is yes.
I don't know a lot about lots of other communities in the country. But I know about the people of Greensburg, Kansas, and they will make every effort to see that their community survives and prospers, and that their children and grandchildren have a future there. You know, there's a special place we all call, it's called home. And everybody wants to live where it's home. And so, as the folks of Greensburg try to pick up their lives, rebuild their homes, re-establish the businesses, recreate a community, they just want Greensburg to be home again.
And so tonight I rise to commend them for their spirit, acknowledge their bravery, speak about their compassion and love for their friends and family and neighbors. And I especially want to talk about the city officials, the mayor, Lonnie McCollum, the city manager, Steve Hewett.
Perhaps people don't realize that the people who are there today trying to restore the electricity, the water, the sewer, the telephone service, the power, they, too, lost everything. So as the city officials have gone back to work trying to restore the basic needs of a community, they face the challenges of not having a home, vehicles destroyed, families living outside the community.
And Mr. Speaker, in addition to the city officials and the people of Greensburg, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Heart to Heart, church groups, hundreds and thousands of people across the country on Sunday said their prayers for the people of Greensburg, Kansas. Offering plates were passed. The community of Haviland, a small town much smaller than the community of Greensburg, 15 miles down the road, the grocery store open on Sunday. I was there. I watched as the owner of the grocery store, no small task to keep a grocery store in Haviland, Kansas, alive and well, but I watched as customers placed groceries on the counter. And the grocery store owner said, where are you from? And the answer was, Greensburg. No charge.
That's the community that people call home in Kansas and many places across the country. And it's that effort that we are seeing today in which people come to the aid and rescue of their friends and neighbors and people they don't even know to make certain that good happens in a very difficult and challenging time.
And we are pleased with the National Guard. We are pleased with the services we have with surrounding communities and their law enforcement, emergency preparedness. And FEMA has arrived on the spot almost from day one, almost from the first moment the tornado struck.
I just got off the phone with the National Weather Service in Dodge City, Kansas. 20 minutes is not very long. But that 20 minutes, because of the efforts of the folks forecasting the weather that night, saved lives.
And I would ask that Kansans and Americans tonight again say their prayers for the people of Greensburg, that they recognize that we in America, no matter where the challenge or difficulty lies, we are in it together. And I would ask that, throughout the course of time, that the contributions be collected, the efforts be made to restore the community and that all Americans share in that process.
The people of Greensburg ought to be reassured that we, in Congress, we, as the Federal Government, will do everything within our power to assist them in their efforts. We want to reassure them that the future is theirs, and we're here to help.
And the role that we play as a Federal Government, the role that all the agencies who have arrived to provide assistance is important. But the reality is that Greensburg, Kansas, has a future because the people who call Greensburg home want to ensure that future comes tomorrow, next year and for another generation.
Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to pay tribute to a community back home.
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Mr. MORAN of Kansas. I thank so much the gentleman from North Dakota who, I know, like the gentleman from Pennsylvania, understands that rural America is a special place, and the place called home, in this case a place called Greensburg, Kansas, matters a lot, not only in the future of that community, but in the future of a way that we try to preserve here, a way of life that matters, I think, to all of America.
Again, I express my appreciation to my colleagues for their support. I remind the folks of Greensburg, Kansas, that we'll be an ally. I thank those who have worked so hard to this point to see that there is an opportunity for a future.
And tonight I especially say my prayers for the family members of those whose families lost their lives. Ten people died in the tornado on Friday night.
Life is a very precious thing, and we offer our prayers. We seek the support of all as we try to rebuild Greensburg, Kansas. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
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