A New Frontier Town
By Tina Antolini
Today is the fourth anniversary of the tornado that devastated Greensburg, Kansas. In our radio episode, Greensburg – To the Starts through Difficulties, we discovered the resiliency of the residents there and that altruism is alive and well in the country. And beyond resiliency, we discovered the innovative spirit that guides Americans to build anew, in both financially and environmentally sound ways. Visit our Greensburg page to not only listen to the episode, but to discover some of the incredible organizations that we had the opportunity to learn about that are leading the way in rebuilding both the infrastructure and the culture of the area. Below you’ll find a post by Tina Antolini that she wrote shortly after leaving Greensburg, about the vast amount of historical artifacts lost in the storm, how residents came to terms with that, and then carried on.State of the Re:Union: Greensburg, KS - To the Stars through Difficulties
There’s a red, white and blue sign in front window of the house where Ed Schoenberger lives in Greensburg, Kansas. It says “Rebuilding Greensburg with Pride.” This is certainly true for Ed, who has lived in this town for decades, and cared for its history with equivalent pride for just as long. Ed is the caretaker of the cemetery in Greensburg, and is also the curator of the town’s historical museum—that is, before the museum blew away, along with most of Main Street, in the tornado that hit Greensburg in May 2007. It took most of Ed’s treasured artifacts with it, whole rooms of lovingly assembled displays, depicting Greensburg in its early days, as frontier town. He’s managed to salvage bits and pieces from the wreckage of the museum, and some of it has now taken up residence in his home. Out on the front porch, he’s got a beautifully painted tin panel that was once part of the ceiling of the old art deco Twilight Theater. A ledger book filled with the names of Greensburg’s earliest leaders sits on his kitchen table. But, for all his fondness for this memorabilia, Ed has now lived through what’s arguably the most important even in Greensburg’s history: the tornado. He and his wife huddled in their basement, as the winds destroyed the house around them.
Today, more than two years later, he clearly grieves for what was lost—not only his home and those of most of his friends, but decades of history, written into the buildings, the landscape, as well as what was stored in the museum. When Ed and the rest of Greensburg chose to rebuild, they did so stripped of most of the evidence of what had come before. That’s especially hard to a man—and a region—that prizes roots and tradition, a part of the country that changes only gradually and with unease. But, for all his love of the past, Ed has done what much of his town has: mourned that loss, and made his peace with it. He lives in a different house now, one that’s newly fixed up. He talks with excitement about a group that’s just formed called “Greensburg 2020,” which aims to have the town’s population reaching 2020 by that year. In some ways, Ed says, it’s like Greensburg has become the frontier all over again—this time, as it works to become a model green community.
“It started back in 1884;” he says. “We had basically nothing; Absolutely nothing no water tower, no city buildings, we had nothing. We had streets, but that’s about it. It’s just like starting all over again… But, you know, I can say I’m part of it. “