Special bus will commemorate 20th anniversary of 9/11 as it travels from Kansas to New York

Brandon Case
Pratt Tribune
Matt Deighton parked the Stars of Hope bus at the Pratt County Veterans Memorial Lake recently prior to a cross country journey to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of 9/11.  Deighton is from Greensburg, originally.

Greensburg resident Matt Deighton will be one of two people piloting the Stars of Hope bus back to its home city to participate in the 20th Anniversary Commemoration of the 9/11 tragedy. He stopped his bus at Pratt County Veteran's Memorial Lake last week for a brief rest before starting his cross-country tour.

"So many people from all across the country came to help Greensburg after the tornado, and it is my true honor to be a part of this historic event," Deighton said.

The Stars of Hope (SOH) bus is the brainchild of Jeff Parness, who founded the New York Says Thank You Foundation. The Stars of Hope bus itself came into existence in 2019.

Following the Greensburg tornado in May 2007, Parness and two New York City firefighters visited the community and provided wooden stars for local residents and others to paint with messages of hope. The stars were then placed throughout Greensburg and have remained visible there for several years.

Also after the Greensburg tornado, Parness and volunteers from across the country (including 80 members of the Fire Department of New York) came to Greensburg and built the Big Red Barn at the Kiowa County Fair Ground. The barn is still used throughout the year by Kiowa County residents.

Deighton has already logged 18,000 miles on the SOH bus, and the upcoming trip will be his fourth to the site of the former World Trade Center.

According to a twitter posting from SOH, the purpose of the program is to “empower[] people to transform communities impacted by disasters through colorful art and messages of hope and healing.”

"There are so many micro stories that will never be told about how the Stars of Hope bus has helped so many souls to heal, but the most important thing to remember is that we live in the greatest country on earth,” said Deighton.

The Greensburg resident said that the bus will depart Kansas around September 5 and then travel to Utica, Illinois, where a deadly tornado killed 9 people in the early 2000s. Back then, Cadet Ben Brown worked to help find survivors of the tornado. Now the Fire Chief in Utica, Brown will help Deighton drive the bus to New York City for the commemoration ceremony.