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Expressing Sympathy to the Citizens of Greensburg, Kansas

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


EXPRESSING SYMPATHY TO THE CITIZENS OF GREENSBURG, KANSAS -- (House of Representatives - May 22, 2007)

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Mr. MORAN of Kansas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, to the gentleman from Maryland, I'm very grateful for his support and for his help in bringing this legislation to the House floor today.

I rise in support of H. Res. 400, which I introduced along with my fellow colleagues from Kansas. It does express the sympathy of the House of Representatives for the loss of life and the tremendous property damage to a community in my district of a population of about 1,500.

The tornado occurred at about 10 p.m. on Friday evening, May 4, now a little more than 2 weeks ago. It was an F-5 tornado, one of the most powerful tornados to strike the United States in more than 8 years. It was fortunate that the people of Greensburg had a 20-minute warning, that the National Weather Service performed its function. An emergency was declared, and people had 20 minutes to try to save their families' lives and to move to safety.

My guess is that that 20 minutes went by in a flash. Mr. Speaker, while 20 minutes may go by in a flash, I'm sure that the 2 minutes that the tornado was on the ground went by very, very slowly. It was an eternity. In that 20 minutes of warning, people did what they could do. In that 2 minutes, at least the buildings of the community were destroyed; 205-mile-an-hour winds can do great damage.

Mr. Speaker, we in Kansas are accustomed from time to time to tornados, but never have I seen the devastation and destruction that occurs to one community. The losses are significant. Certainly our prayers and support are with the families of those 10 individuals who died that night, but 95 percent of the town is gone. There is no high school. There is no grade school. There is no city hall. There is no hospital. There is no library. The entire business district, six or seven blocks of a business district in the county seat town, not a business remains.

Sixty-three people were injured, and while faced with such destruction, I've been to Greensburg seven times in the last 2 weeks, I have seen nothing but the sense of spirit about rebuilding lives. You can stand in front of a home that is totally destroyed and listen to the people there sorting through the rubble, trying to find something of value, and when you have a conversation with them, it doesn't take long before a smile appears on their face and they talk about how things could be worse than they are, how we're better off than our neighbors, how we'll get through this.

And so, Mr. Speaker, in what is truly a time of devastation, it's also truly a
time of hope. And what we saw in Kansas that night and every day since reaffirms my belief in the value of caring for your family, love and compassion for your neighbor, that your community matters, and a sense that together we can get through this.

I'm proud, Mr. Speaker, to see the tremendous support that comes from across the country. Many Members of the House of Representatives have stopped to visit with me. Many ambassadors and Presidents of foreign countries have sent notes of condolences and concern. And I appreciate that President Bush came to Greensburg, Kansas, last Wednesday and spent 4 hours commiserating with the people of that community.

There is a sense in America that we're all in this together, and in this case the sense is more than just a feeling. It's been a reality.

An example, the nearby community of Haviland, population about 450, the grocery store there was open last Sunday. It's a typical grocery store in a small town. My guess is it makes no money. It's more of a community service than it is a business. It has the old wooden floors and the tin ceiling that is very traditional, very common in communities I represent. And I watched as the owner of the grocery store stood behind the counter, and people brought groceries to the counter and placed them there, ready to pay, and he would ask the question, ``Where are you from?'' And if the answer was, Greensburg, his answer was, ``No charge.''

We've seen this exhibited time and time again by friends and family, but even as important as that, we've seen it demonstrated time and time again by people who know no one in Greensburg, Kansas.

So, Mr. Speaker, the tragedy was tremendous, the destruction was great, but in reality, people have the faith in their future and are willing to take the steps necessary to see that their community is rebuilt and that their children and grandchildren have a future in Greensburg.

So, Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the resolution commending these people of Greensburg, Kansas, for their spirit, their bravery, their compassion, their love for friends and family, and I also say thank you to the Members of the House of Representatives and to Americans around the country who also have taken the steps to make sure that good things happen in the future of Greensburg.

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Mr. MORAN of Kansas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Beside me I have a photograph of Greensburg, Kansas, taken shortly after the tornado that perhaps gives Members of the House of Representatives and really America a sense of the extent of the destruction.

And there are Members of Congress, I suppose, who come from places different than the middle of America, and let me describe Greensburg, Kansas, to you.

Greensburg, Kansas, is a community of about 1,500 people. It's the county seat town of Kiowa County. It is the hub of activity for that county. It's in many ways a typical community that I represent. Its downtown consists of four or five blocks on both sides of the street of businesses, the hardware store, a drugstore, a grocery store. There's the seats of government, the city hall, the library, the hospital, the courthouse.

Mr. Speaker, it's a community in which people have lived there, in many instances, for four and five generations, and it's a community that welcomes newcomers. In fact, that's the plea of every Kansas community: We'd like to grow and see some prosperity, see new people in our town.

And so this is a community that has a combination of people who are senior citizens and young folks, a community that has folks who have lived there generation after generation, generally involved in agriculture, farming and ranching; but it's also a community that embraces new ideas and new people, a look toward the future. It's a community that has numerous churches, and yet today, as we talk about Greensburg, those structures, those buildings are gone.

But in many ways, what's happened in Greensburg only reinforces who the people who call Greensburg home are. The fact that the buildings are gone is something they will live with. In fact, their response was how quickly can we get back into town so we can begin the process of rebuilding our homes, our businesses and our lives.

On Saturday, I was in Greensburg for high school graduation. As I indicated, Greensburg is a town of about 1,500 people. Twenty-five seniors from Greensburg High School graduated on Saturday morning. Graduation was held under a tent on the golf course, the golf course because it's the only place in town that has no debris and rubble. Population 1,500, there were 1,800 people at graduation. They were there to tell the students, congratulations and best wishes.

They were also there to reinforce the importance of community, that life revolves around what goes on in the town, and life revolves around its future based upon its young people. Once again we saw the demonstration of how friends and family and neighbors and people who don't even know anybody in Greensburg came together in one more instance to make certain that there was love and compassion and care and concern demonstrated for the people of this community. I am so grateful again for the opportunity to represent the people of a community like Greensburg, Kansas.

The question particularly by the national media has been, Congressman, do you believe they will rebuild their community? I can tell you that effort is ongoing today, and it began on Saturday, Saturday morning the day after the tornado, and it continues each and every moment.

The city administrator, the mayor, the sheriff, the police chief, the county commissioners, the city council members all lost their homes. Yet Saturday morning, they were all gathered there to try to restore the services for electricity and gas and power and water to the community. They lost everything, but yet, as community leaders, they were there.

My friend, Dennis McKinney, the Democrat leader of the House of Representatives of the State of Kansas, announced on Sunday, a week ago, ``I have already hired the contractor to rebuild the house on the same foundation where I lived before the tornado, because leaders have to be leaders.'' Again, we see the determination of people.

What I answered to the national media who asked me if they think Greensburg will be rebuilt, I don't know a lot of people in other communities, but I know the people of Greensburg, Kansas. In Kansas and in Greensburg, Kansas, we all have a place we love. It's called ``home.''

There is a great attraction to make certain that we do everything in this Congress, that the Federal Government responds appropriately to help the folks of Greensburg. I can tell you that the love of home is sufficient, that the people of Greensburg, Kansas, are rebuilding today.

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Mr. MORAN of Kansas. I thank the gentleman from Maryland. He has touched me by his personal interest, not only in this resolution, but in his awareness and concern for the people of Greensburg, Kansas.

Mr. Speaker, once again, it's good to see in this House of Representatives where people from across the country recognize the value of working together to see that good happens.

I also wish to express my appreciation to all the volunteers from across the country. Sunday, the two Sundays since the tornado, collection plates have been passed in our churches, the prayers have been said. The Red Cross has arrived, the Salvation Army is there, the National Guard, our soldiers away from home, again, helping in time of need. Our law enforcement officers from across the State and FEMA have performed admirably in this very difficult circumstance.

I am pleased by the spirit exhibited today by the gentleman from Maryland and look forward to that spirit continuing as we work to rebuild Greensburg and all of America.

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