GREENSBURG, Kan. -- Just three months after the destruction of their town, a temporary school opened in Greensburg with a sign of freedom and liberty. The 50-Star American Flag waved in the breeze on the corner of Main and Garfield Street. When doors opened on Aug. 15, 2007, fourteen mobile units housed the elementary, middle and high school students.
Marion Paxton, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) city liaison, attended District 422 Board of Education meetings tracking the needs and progress of the Greensburg temporary school. Two days before the school was to open, she learned several items had been ordered but not received. One of the items was the flag.
"Although it was probably not high on the list compared to desks and not having the cafeteria or the gymnasium completed, it was quite disappointing to one school board member," Paxton said. "So the concerned school board member, Marilyn Brown, and I put our heads together and came up with a plan."
The FEMA City Liaison knew if it was at all possible, FEMA would be proud and grateful to honor the first day of Greensburg's school opening with a flag.
"I contacted Jim Donley, FEMA deputy federal coordinating officer in the Greensburg Area Field Office (AFO), and he took up the mission with our logistics group," said Paxton. "We found the flag by 10 a.m."
Finding the flag was easier than the task of figuring out how it was to be mounted. Darin Headrick, school superintendent was contacted to determine where the flag should be mounted. The initial location near his office was not available because of construction.
Locating the materials in a disaster area on such a short notice for a pole mounted flag also posed a challenge. The school flag project drew a lot of FEMA interest and pride.
Butch Shelton, FEMA deputy logistic chief and FEMA employees Jeff Conley, J.R. Clate, and Conradge Brown under the watchful eye of Ted Rhymes, FEMA resources unit lead at Greensburg AFO, developed quite a unique pole mount and anchor system.
"We think the group must have been seamen with superior rope-knot tying and pulley system knowledge," said Paxton. "Once designed and tested, the group loaded the 12-foot pole, a wooden wire spool base, sand bag anchors, rope and flag into two Kubotas [golf-cart-like vehicles] with a fan group in tow."
Today, the majestic American flag, a symbol of freedom and a sign of welcome to every student, teacher, and parent on the first day of school stands high and flies liberally in Greensburg, Kansas.
FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.