Monday 18th of April 2011 08:55 AM
By Kim L. Fritzemeier
KFRM Central Kansas Reporter
Farm Wife along the Stafford/Reno County Line
I remember a long ago field trip to the Big Well in Greensburg. Back when I was growing up, that's what Greensburg was known for. Billboards outside Pratt said, "Visit the World's Largest Hand-Dug Well."
During a school field trip, we did just that. We descended the 105 steps into the Big Well, tossed a few pennies in the well and then marched back up.
On May 4, 2007, an EF5 tornado ripped through the town of Greensburg and changed it forever. The Big Well was something that the tornado couldn't take away from the town's identity, though the landmarks around the site were swept away.
A photo from 2005 from the Big Well website
Currently, the well is full of debris from the tornado, but there are plans to clean it out and build a new gift shop and museum. For now, the new modern water tower replaced the old metal tower I remember as a child.
Resurrecting this site where more than 3 million people have visited since 1888 is on the to-do list. But in four years, it's amazing how many of the "to-dos" have been crossed off.
Nobody would ever believe that a natural disaster that caused death and destruction is a good thing. But it has given Greensburg a unique opportunity.
"(The tornado) forced people to make change. It forced people to say, 'You know what we have is an opportunity unlike any other community gets. To change the way we are going. To reverse the trend. To not lose the kids, but to bring our kids back. To invest back in the community so that after they graduate they can have new jobs and new opportunities.’ "
Former Greensburg City Administrator Steve Hewitt
A middle school student led our tour of the new Kiowa County Schools, which opened in time for this year's school year. The $52 million school is filled with "green" features.
During this week of Easter, a time when we celebrate resurrection and rebirth, I'd like to give you an outsider's glimpse of Greensburg. In one day, I certainly didn't see all I'd like to see. But the progress is truly amazing.
One of the most impressive stops on the tour was the new school.
One of the things that is most striking is all the natural light that pours into the facility. Here's a link to a student-produced video at Kiowa County Schools that features an interview with Superintendent Darin Headrick, and shows more than I can with still photos.
Interview with Superintendent Darin Headrick.
Tomorrow ... more from Greensburg. And for more of my observations and photos today, click on this link.