Greensburg tornado experience changed everything

Courtney Blankenship
KSN weather personality Dave Freeman interviewed then high school student Amy Wittig after the Greensburg tornado in 2007. Her family's home and father's truck were heavily damaged in the May 4 storm.

It has been 13 years since an EF5 tornado wreaked havoc in Greensburg on May 4, 2007 but for many who were impacted by the disaster, the pain and memories still remain.

Amy Wittig, a Greensburg native and current Pratt resident, remembers calling the American Red Cross number she saw on a news channel to receive updates on the situation as she struggled to contact her family members in Greensburg the night the tornado hit.

“It changed my life completely,” Wittig said. “Seeing my brother from age of 4 and my mom go through anxiety attacks, I am now more aware of what nature can do, and I am prepared for a tornado.”

Wittig, who was not in Greensburg during the tornado, said she was unable to get in touch with her family members until around midnight to hear if they were safe.

“My grandmother called me and said they were all okay, and that my grandpa and uncle were trying to get in Greensburg to help but no one was allowed in or out after the tornado,” Wittig said.

Though her family members were safe, Wittig said her family’s home and dad’s truck both took damages from the tornado.

“It made me realize that we aren't promised tomorrow. Anything can change in a blink of an eye,” Wittig said. “Property and things aren’t that important. What’s important is family, neighbors, and community.”

Wittig’s family moved to Pratt after the tornado because their home was too damaged to live in, but she said she still tries to visit Greensburg every year on the storm’s anniversary.

“It still gets to me to drive downtown and remember where things used to be because what I remember and what is now are two different images,” Wittig said.

Having spent most of her life in Greensburg, Wittig said things have changed a lot since her childhood, including businesses that have either changed location or closed down completely.

“I went back a few weeks ago,” Wittig said. “Drove by my old house and just sat there and cried and wondered why.”

These days, Wittig lives in Pratt with her kids and keeps a tornado-kit prepared with supplies in case of another disaster. She advises people to not lose hope and to never take family for granted.

“Big tragedies hit and you'll be surprised on who will lend a helping hand,” Wittig said. “Always help your neighbors and community because those will be the ones to lean on if [you] need anything.”