A Phoenix Rises

Today’s story centers around one of my favorite quotes:

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond to it. The remarkable thing is, we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. We can not change the fact that people act in a certain way. We can not change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.”


This simple philosophy can be hard to follow… especially in the face of tragedy. But sometimes the worst tragedies can bring forth the most heartwarming attitudes, and stories of love and hope.

Take the people of Greensburg, Kansas.

A little more than a year ago— on a May night in 2007 — a massive 2-mile-wide tornado ripped through the small town, leveling nearly 95 percent of the town’s buildings, and taking eleven lives.

At the time, the stories on the news were heartbreaking. Everyone in the town was affected by it. The tornado spared no one. Those who didn’t lose their homes lost loved ones and friends. Others lost both. Most people lost everything they had ever known. The devastation was so extensive that many in the media found themselves asking residents the questions, “Will you rebuild? Can you rebuild? And why? Why not just move to another town after such a huge loss?”

From the very beginning, the answers were always the same:

Yes, we will rebuild.
Yes, we can rebuild.
We will rebuild because this is our home.
We will not move because we refuse to lose our community.

Almost immediately, help began pouring in.

First came the donations of food, bottled water and clothing. So much came from so many places…. the town eventually had no place to put it all.

Next, the money started trickling in. Federal aid, state aid, help from organizations, businesses, universities, elementary schools, even kids who donated funds from their piggy banks. All of this added up to millions of dollars. Millions to help the town of 1,500 people get back on its feet.

Soon after that came the building supplies. Chainsaws, lumber, tools, generators, even donated trucks were ending up on the city’s doorstep.

The townsfolk put the donations to good use. Most of the community has yet to be rebuilt, but changes are already evident. As the town’s website states, “Everyday in Greensburg there is something new happening. We have over 140 new homes in progress and several businesses on Main Street that are in the process of building.” A new town is rising from the ashes.

But even more important than the buildings, are the connections that have been made since the tornado struck. People in Greensburg now feel connected to the rest of the world who helped them out in their time of need. And the bonds have strengthened within the community as well. As 17-year-old Taylor Schmidt told a reporter with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “We helped each other out, grieved with each other, celebrated with each other and worshipped with each other. We rebuilt the town as one voice, one community.”

(Note: Another interesting thing to note— the town of Greensburg is making sure that all of its new buildings are not only stronger, but also environmentally friendly. It hopes to become an example to other communities around the country. Discovery Channel’s newest channel, Planet Green, is hosting a series on the rebuilding of Greensburg, Kansas starting June 13.)

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