When photographer Cort Anderson first saw Greensburg, four days after a tornado flattened the town in May, he said the destruction was overwhelming.
"One of the things I noticed when I was there the first day was the lack of leaves and street signs," Anderson said. "They actually spray painted the names on the streets so people from out of town would know where they were."
Anderson, a technology consultant for the Kansas Press Association and a former newspaper photographer, snapped a picture of a battered American flag, stretched across a tangle of bare trees.
Now, Anderson's photo is representing Kansas as the state's official Christmas ornament, which bears a "Remembering Greensburg" theme. It is part of both the National Christmas Tree and the Kansas Tree, which stand in President's Park, between the White House and the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.
"I thought at the time that it was a really great image; this is going to mean something," he said. "This is a different image from everything I'd seen."
The ornament was designed by Topeka artist Anita Wolgast, who was first commissioned to create the state's ornament in 1981. She has since designed every Kansas ornament for the National and Kansas trees. President Bush and the first lady lit the trees during a ceremony Dec. 6.
Wolgast's 3-D design depicts an American flag extended across a barren landscape. A blue sky provides the background of the image, which Wolgast said provided hope in a tragic situation.
"With the ornaments, I try every year to reflect something significant in the history of our state, either that has happened this year or something in the past," Wolgast said. "And this year, what more significant thing happened in our state than the loss of a whole town?"
The ornaments are available for purchase on the Kansas Historical Society's Web site, as well as at www.kansaschristmasornaments.com. They cost $30 each, and 20 percent of sales is being donated to the Greensburg Rebuilding Fund.
For Anderson, the feeling that his photograph is helping the people of Greensburg means much more than having the image turned into the state's ornament.
"You just want to help those people," said Anderson, who lives in Belle Plaine, south of Wichita. "It was more important personally that I was doing something to help them than to have it on a tree in Washington."
Wolgast said she wanted the ornaments to convey to the whole country how Kansans care for their neighbors.
"Emotionally, this is far and away the most significant ornament (she has created), in that it represents (how) Kansans care about Kansans," she said. "We care about our neighbors, and I felt this was an opportunity to provide support to them."
Wolgast said a limited supply of ornaments is available and if people want ornaments as Christmas gifts, they should act fast. A waiting list of names will be created if supplies run out.