The TH Interview: Sharon Schmidt, Mom in Greensburg Kansas

When I recently had the opportunity to interview Greensburg mother Sharon Schmidt she sounded tired but resolute. Much like you’d expect a mom who has been through a lot in the recent past, putting her own life back together while ensuring her son has the best possible experience as a high school junior despite the fact that their entire town has been rebuilding from a tornado that took it off the map.

Her words give life to what it means to be a mom from Greensburg, and I suspect you’ll enjoy reading what she has to say this Mother’s Day as much as I did listening to her speak a short time ago.

TreeHugger: What’s this school year been like while Greensburg is being rebuilt?

Sharon Schmidt: It’s started out just kind of surreal and at the very first of the school year in late summer and very early fall there were still some very bad storms and we were living in FEMA-ville, and they didn’t have their storm shelters yet so it was just very trying.

I guess when they would hit we would have gotten notice, but they were fast moving storms so it was unsettling I guess… But they do have shelters now (at school) so as a mother I feel better about it.
TH: How has the rebuilding process affected the kids in town like your son?

SS: The kids have been so incredibly busy. Taylor is just involved in so much that we sometimes have to make time to sit down and catch up. Over all it’s been good, the downside is that they’re in mobile double-wide like classrooms or offices so they’re on a campus of those with grade school and junior high on one side and the rebuilt practice gym and high school on the east side. And overall kids have just been fabulous. When it rains hard, and it rained hard yesterday, their feet, shoes, socks, and jeans are sopped all day long because it gets really, really wet. But kudos to these kids that have had a wonderful year despite the inconveniences; I’m so proud of all of them.

TH: What changes have you seen in them?

SS: Well, they’ve become very engaged in making sure our city comes back together. When something is flattened it’s pretty hard to imagine it, but the kids have responded very well and they’re positive and upbeat and active in whatever’s going on. But I think as a whole the kids are very close and when you go through something like that it changes your mode of thinking even when you’re kids. I’m sure their teachers could tell you with the older kids that they just hang together a lot and they’re very close, good friends. While it’s been devastating there’s been a whole lot of good come out of it.

They’ve been able to see the goodness and kindness of people and the willingness to help of people who come out and take time off from their jobs to help. For instance, the Mennonite disaster relief people are building our house and this week from Ottawa, Kansas two older and two younger men came out who have been unbelievable. One is soft spoken and quiet and left all his own farm work for one week to come work on our house. It’s a very humbling experience. They’re either taking vacation or not getting paid, and it’s awesome. We’ve seen every denomination represented.

TH: And the graduating seniors are about (when we talked) to have President Bush come give the commencement address. How do all of you feel about that?

SS: Well, it’s pretty bizarre. At first there was a parents meeting and some were very disgruntled because this is a very quiet, studious, group of kids. They’re just kind of extraordinary that way. So the parents were a little concerned about the hooplah and not just getting to have a ceremony. One senior, his daddy was in Iraq when he was in junior high and he wrote the President; and for him it is just an honor beyond speakable words. And kids are just rallying around and excited about it. My nephew and one of the girls in his class split valedictorian and they both are going to have speeches and both been in contact with the Presidents speech writer; a very interesting process.

TH: How do you feel about rebuilding green?

SS: You know, I am a Christian and I have been raised in a home where you don’t waste, so we’re just doing what we’re supposed to do. Some of it’s a little out there, but it’s going to be an energy-efficient house and I’m excited about that.

I’ll tell you what, I am excited about this house because our last was not airtight, but this is just going to be incredible and I am very excited about that. When push comes to shove I think it’s going to be very expensive to live here. And we’re talking an enormous difference and the amount you could have bought the nicest home on May 3 for $80,000 and now these people are bringing in modular homes for upwards of $200k.

So our lives changed overnight.

TH: And what do you expect life will be like in the future?

SS: it’s just a small town where everybody hangs together, and there’s time when I wish we were again, and we’re never going to go back again, but this is the town I grew up and my kids grew up in. I don’t have a clue what it’s going to be like; whether we’re going to have that sense of community or not. I know we will, don’t get me wrong, but we’ve been picked up and shook up and twirled around and I honestly can’t tell you what that’s going to be like.

Catch gripping video from Greensburg here:

See other TH Interviews from Greensburg:

Taylor Schmidt, Junior at Greensburg High School and Sharon’s son
Randy Fulton, Principal of Greensburg High School
Bob Dixson, Greensburg's Mayor

Plus, Don't Miss Greensburg on Planet Green

Tags: Education | Kansas | Planet Green | TH Interview | United States

Best of TreeHugger 2014

WHAT'S HOT ON FACEBOOK