My trips home will be strikingly different from now on.
I'm watching CNN right now. I've just turned from KOAM. I've been online at the Hutchinson News (www.hutchnews.com) and Wichita Eagle (www.kansas.com) web sites.
Greensburg, Kansas has been destroyed.
I drive though there twice a year, going to and from my family's home in Garden City. I've been in the Dillion's store and the Kwik Shop. I've looked down into the Big Well. I've driven by the high school because I like to find where a town's football field is.
Now an image appears on TV. It's a tornado in Ellis County, Oklahoma. Tornado chasers have approached a tornado closer than I've ever seen. It is the most clear and most awesome video of a tornado I've ever seen.
As a Kansan, I've been somehow blessed to have never personally witnessed a tornado. Blessed in the sense that I've never had to deal with the devastation that occurs.
Four months before I was born, three tornados hit Garden City -- on the same day -- and my mom, a native of California who grew up in Idaho and met my father in Washington state, said she wanted to go back home very badly.
Now I'm going to go through Greensburg, Kansas twice a year and instead of stopping in for a drink at a convenience store in a town known for a big ol' hole in the ground, I'll drive through slowly awed at the sight of what could soon become a ghost town.
There's no well. No stores. No schools. Not much of anything from what I can see. Random buildings, a few combines at the John Deere dealer and the street grid is all that seems to have survived. The tornado, without a care as it passed through, even destroyed the fire department and the hospital.
Greensburg was home to 1,400 people. Almost none of them have a place to stay.
Count your blessings tonight. I'm counting mine.
--10:20 p.m., May 5, 2007.