GREENSBURG, Kan. – Around 10 p.m., I decided to go visit the now-defunct FEMAville.
The sky was clear and a cool crescent moon was looking down on the sleeping town of Greensburg, so I wanted to try to get a picture of it. The resulting photo can be seen at the top of this post, and I’m pretty happy with it considering I don’t usually try to do that type of shot.
We climbed onto the top of one the storm shelters that served the make-shift city following the destruction of May 4, 2007.
Sitting on the concrete roof of the shelters, we both commented on how clear and beautiful the sky was, but we both were also a little taken aback by the deserted feel of the area.
Rebecca said the old utility hookups reminded her of tombstones, and considering before last week there were once as many as 288 FEMA trailers in the temporary village, it was even creepier.
Of course, Wednesday Cort Anderson and I thought the same thing when we went there during dusk.
The vast emptiness and the remnants of what the area was nearly overwhelming. I don’t think I can even begin to describe the feelings I felt while standing there and taking in the empty FEMAville.
A theme of feeling nearly overwhelmed carried on into today.
I woke up at 6:30 a.m. to get a photo I wanted because the light was right, and then later Larry Hatteberg came from Wichita to speak to the group about video storytelling.
He showed a piece he did about Greensburg, and one lady he interviewed was crying. I had to choke back tears of my own because seeing the pain this woman was feeling tore at me.
As I have said before, knowing what has happened to this town and how it is springing back is very emotional for me because I love rural Kansas, and clearly the people wanting to save their small part of the state care too.
Liggett’s art is political and funny, and the shear number of pieces the 78-year-old man has produced is overwhelming.
It was inspiring. He puts as much effort into his art as I do into journalism, so I have nothing but respect for the opinionated, foul-mouthed gent.
Everyone in the group enjoyed Liggett’s antics, and he was especially taken by Rebecca. In fact, he like her red-painted toenails so much he took a picture of them and said he was going to do a sculpture about them because they were “rooster feet.”
After a quick bite to eat with Liggett in the Mullinville Country Café, where we heard even more outrageous and hilarious phrases come from the man’s mouth as we filled our own with delicious hamburgers, Cort and I went to interview the director of the Kiowa County EMS Department.
His name is Chad Pore, and he talked to Cort and me for an overwhelming three hours. I have never had an interview run that long, and now I have to sort through as many hours of audio in order to craft my story about the emergency medical service being rebuilt from the ground up.
Things finally slowed down for the evening as I helped fellow group members with audio and video needs, as well as helping get content posted to www.greensburgrebirth.com.
But then I stepped outside to get a breath of fresh air and I noticed the moon.
I had to go shoot that picture. Not only does it clearly demonstrate the end of a day, but it illustrates the expansiveness of what is going on in Greensburg.
In the larger scheme of things, everything that is happening is fairly minute, but if you pay attention, the work being done shines brightly, just like the moon that sits so many miles up in the sky.
Of course, in order to fully see and appreciate such glimmerings of hope, you have to get away from the hustle and bustle of larger urban life and get out into rural Kansas away from the city lights.
Then you can see small-town innovations and steps of rebuilding the community taking place and begin to form a cursory understanding of what it feels like to have ripped from your life as you stand in a FEMA-trailer graveyard looking up to the heavens.
Feeling so alone, even in the company of another and so near the city limits, puts things in perspective and allows you to truly enjoy the simple things in life, such as a beautiful evening under a waxing crescent.