Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Return to Greensburg, Kansas

On May 4th 2007 a huge devastating tornado wiped out the entire town of Greensburg in south western Kansas. It was the first ever tornado to be rated EF5 on the enhanced tornado intensity scale.

The 2 mile wide tornado struck the town of 1,800 residents at about 9:45 p.m. local time, leaving a broad swath of destruction. Residents reported that tornado sirens sounded for about 15 minutes, then fell silent when the power was knocked out.

Many people were killed and injured during this tragic event.

During my visit to the Plains in early June I drove through Greensburg. That short journey shook me to the ground. So much so that something within urged me to do something positive. I wanted to utilise this event and raise awareness to all who never witness the mess that such tornadic events can leave in their wake. The human, as well as the physical, loss is truly shocking.

Upon returning to the UK I contacted my sponsors Olympus and we discussed how this could best be achieved in the most sensitive manner. I would return to Greensburg and take photographic images of the town. These photos will then form the basis of a media article and public exhibition somewhere in the UK later in the year. Monies raised from these activities would then be sent to those who need it in Greesburg.

That trip is planned for Friday 22 June, when I will return to Greensburg.

Historically, I have captured many tornadoes/severe weather images and the damage they leave in their wake. This is the worst I have ever witnessed. I often use such images in talks up and down the country (UK) in order to raise awareness of the catastrophic damage which unfortunately occurs as a result of Mother Nature's aftermath.
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UPDATE -Return from Greensburg

I have just been emotionally scarred from my visit. Having walked through the entire site, interviewing residents, aid workers, federal agents, state police and local people I feel humbled. Words or pictures cannot describe. Imagine the aftermath of a nuclear explosion. This is now Greesnburg........... wiped off the map!

The entire experience, not from what I have seen but from from the words of the people I have spoken to has considerably shaken me. One thing is for sure, this tragic event ironically has brought a community, which was already together, CLOSER together. This is the key message I have got from speaking to everyone in Greensburg. They are pulling together. The support nationally and locally has been tremendous . There is a lot of spirit and hope (and a future) for these guys. They believe that. At the moment they certainly do not think that the 1600 residents that were originally here will return completely. About half of that is expected, but time will tell. This is very sad indeed.

I leave Greensburg with a heavy heart, an experience and most importantly a self belief that I have helped. I have only been in Greesnburg 2 days but I almost feel part of the community, part of the people and part of their life. They all pull together and come as one. I have been truly humbled from the experience. As I drive away from Greensburg, listening to David Gray on the car stereo playing "Say Hello Wave Goodbye", tears stream from my face. How appropriate.
I will return again and I vow to initiate a 'Greensburg Project' for the future cause of these people.

Signing off.

Mark Humpage
June 2007

2 comments:

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