A few weeks ago I told you about living in Greensburg. I talked about the regrets I had about not going back to visit before the tornado. I told you I’d still make the trip, only this time it would be to find out about old friends and to say goodbye to others. Last Wednesday I made that trip.
Like everyone, I’d seen the pictures of the destruction. No picture I saw even came close to what it was actually like. It looked more like they were hit by an atomic bomb. From the corner of Hi-way 54 and Main St. looking to the north, south and straight ahead to the west everything was gone. There were random houses here and there still standing, I even saw a trailer house that was barely touched, it still had the skirting around the bottom. Just two blocks west of Main is the Kwik Shop and it’s open for business. How cool is that? Like any small town, Main Street used to have buildings all the way up and down both sides. Today there are only two or three and they’re destroyed. On the east side of town, my favorite restaurant “The Kansan” was destroyed. They still had a sense of humor though, On the inside wall that is now outside was a sign that said “Outside Seating Now Available.” The booths were still there. I just had to sit down, the waitress station was still intact. I still remember my daughter got a kick out of getting her own rolls from the warmer. It’s still there. The swimming pool park across the hi-way was pretty much untouched. It broke my heart to see the Dillons store. Right down the street was my favorite bar ever. They call it the B&H Saloon nowadays, but it’ll always be Larry’s Place to me. Oh, the stories I could tell you about that place. All I can say is that they never proved anything. “Just kidding.” Anyway it was still standing. Almost every Saturday night after Larry’s closed a bunch of us would either end up in Belvidere or out at the State Lake just north west of town. We hung out at the dock on the west side of the lake. We’d build a fire, drink a few adult beverages, and proceed to solve all the world’s problems. I was so glad to see that old dock still standing.
It broke my heart to stand in front of what used to be the Big Well Park. The only thing left is the well itself. It’s wrapped in a blue tarp and is fenced off. We used to rent a house right across the street. It‘s gone. Eventually we bought a house on the east side of town in the eighties. Nothing special, just an old two story house. But it was home and we loved it. It was standing tall.
The hospital is destroyed, the schools and churches are all gone. At the south end of main street on the outskirts of town they’ve moved in about three hundred FEMA trailers. The National guard has set up shop on the football field, there’s a Red-Cross field hospital where Burkes Restaurant used to sit. The Salvation Army has set up camp in Dillons parking lot. There are Government agencies everywhere. Everywhere you look there are people with clip boards feverishly taking notes. These are some of vast numbers of people with their own ideas about how the new Greensburg should look. Next week I’ll probably talk about some of their ideas and maybe throw in a couple of my own. But you can’t go by anything I say, I’m just an old guy. Kevin McGinty can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org