KU students from Greensburg anxious to see home

How to help

American Red CrossCall: 800-REDCROSSVisit:www.redcross.orgMail:American Red CrossP.O. Box 96456Washington, DC 20090-6456Donations can be earmarked specifically for the Greensburg disaster, but donors must specify that at the time of their donations.

Salvation ArmyCall: 800-SAL-ARMYVisit: www.salvationarmyusa.org, click donateMail:The Salvation Army National HeadquartersP.O. Box 269Alexandria, VA 22313For now, the Salvation Army is asking for only financial gifts.

Starving Artists MovingCall: 749-5073Drop-off site: Checkers, 2300 La.

At 6:30 Saturday morning, Kelly McKinney, Stephanie White and her brother Zach White all piled into a car to leave Lawrence and try to pick up the pieces of their broken town.

By the time they reached Emporia, the three Kansas University students from Greensburg were told their town was closed and they should turn around. There was nothing they could do at the moment.

“I’m kind of numb, not having seen it,” Stephanie said. “From the pictures, it looks like a landfill; it doesn’t look like my home.”

Stephanie, a senior, said Greensburg was just like other small towns, though it did have a movie theater. Zach, a freshman, said the most popular spots to hang out at were the town’s stoplight and the Dairy Delite. Teenagers would go to those places to talk into the night.

“As far as I know, those places are all gone,” Zach said.

But the Whites were lucky, compared with some of their neighbors and those local landmarks. They live on a farm about a mile outside of town, and their house escaped the destruction, though their cars were damaged and the house was evacuated.

The tornado that tore through Greensburg, an F-5, destroyed a swath 1.7 miles wide, roughly equivalent to the distance in Lawrence from Massachusetts Street nearly to Lawrence Avenue.

Stephanie and Zach are planning a return to Greensburg on Wednesday, but McKinney went ahead and made the trip down to Greensburg later Saturday. Her dad, Kansas House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney, was noted in local media reports for digging his neighbor and her son out of the rubble after the storm passed.

Kelly, a freshman, said her dad asked for certain supplies, so she drove down and has been staying in Haviland, where a shelter has been set up for tornado victims.

“It’s absolute chaos; it’s the most tragic thing ever,” Kelly said. “My house is gone. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve heard it’s gone.”

While the house is gone, it did shelter her dad and sister from the storm. The McKinney family, including Kelly’s mom, who was in Salina when the storm hit, is staying with grandparents south of town.

“They’re supposed to let us into the town (today). I want to see how much I can get done and I’m hoping to come back on Tuesday,” Kelly said.

All three KU students are also contending with finals, on top of the loss of homes and friends. At least eight people in Greensburg were killed in the storm. Stephanie said the Office of the Vice Provost for Student Success contacted her to offer help as the students put their lives back together.

Stephanie said they were told they would be excused from classes this week if they wanted to go home and help get their affairs in order. All three are hoping to take finals, which begin May 14.

As for rebuilding their town, all three students said they felt people were taking a wait-and-see approach.

“I’ve heard some people say they want to rebuild.” Kelly said. “I know some people will move away, but it’s just too early to tell.”