One year ago, our community had been trampled to 45,000 loads of debris.  Some wondered if Greensburg would even bother to rebuild. Today, we are a rising city of hope with much to be proud of.


    This week, we reflect on the one-year anniversary of the Greensburg tornado. It hardly seems possible that we have endured and overcome so much in such a short time.
    One year ago, our community had been trampled to 45,000 loads of debris.  Some wondered if Greensburg would even bother to rebuild. Today, we are a rising city of hope with much to be proud of. 
    We would never have made significant progress without the help of others.  A variety of partners contributed to our success, but none more so than Kansas. The Kansas National Guard coordinated our first response immediately following the tornado and stayed with us for months to work through the damage. The  Kansas Department of Transportation worked closely in cleanup and planning for the future. The Kansas Housing Resources Corporation was instrumental in linking our residents with resources for rebuilding homes. 
    In my opinion, USD 422 deserves a medal for its resilience and determination. Thanks to their outstanding administration, faculty and staff, school opened last fall on Aug. 15, 2007, with 70 percent of the student body returning for class. Throughout the school term, our students kept the entire community in a positive frame of mind with their can-do attitude and enthusiasm. The character of our young people has been critical to Kiowa County's recovery.                  
    The immediate lack of housing presented the biggest challenge in our rebuilding efforts, but we are making progress. As of April 28, Greensburg has issued 141 new home permits, 76 temporary commercial permits, 42 permanent commercial permits and 401 permits for remodeling and repair. This count does not include any construction outside of the city limits, which includes what will be the “greenest” John Deere dealership in the nation.
    We also owe much to our Mennonite communities, the Salvation Army, United Way of the Plains and countless others for their housing assistance.
    Within five years, we will host a new county hospital broadband-linked with other major medical centers. We will have a new school for our children with state-of-the-art technology that actually reduces instructional costs. There will be a new local theater, a new public library and a new museum. The Big Well, now one of the distinguished “8 Wonders of Kansas,” will offer a new tourist center. We will have new senior housing for our aging parents and a business incubator facility to help small businesses create jobs for the entire county and the surrounding area.
    We will be the first city in the United States to construct all city buildings with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum-level standards to accelerate global adoption of sustainable green building practices.
    Without a doubt, these exciting endeavors helped us stay motivated and focused through the first year of recovery.
    Despite these groundbreaking achievements, however, please notice that even before our courthouse and school are constructed, most of our churches will be rebuilt. The priority given to our places of worship reflect the faith that has sustained and guided us throughout this experience. The new endeavors, combined with the values that made us strong to begin with, will make Kiowa County a premier location for young parents contemplating where to raise a family. 
    This week is a time for celebration and happiness. We still have a long way to go, but we are building a community that everyone can be proud of.
    The Kiowa County we had a year ago was a testament of the tenacity of our grandparents. The Kiowa County we are building today will be testimony to future generations of our resilience. Ad astra per aspera.