Greensburg victims relive the warning that saved their lives

GREENSBURG, Kan. (KSNW) – Jeff Blackburn, a minister in Greensburg who lost his church and home to the tornado, has written a book about it called “Light at the End of the Funnel”.

He actually mentions KSN Chief Meteorologist Dave Freeman and how his warnings helped Blackburn and many others survive the storm.

RELATED LINKS Greensburg tornado damage photos | May 4, 2007 tornado devastates Greensburg

“‘Light at the End of the Funnel’ is intensely personal,” said Blackburn, minister of the Greensburg Mennonite Church.

It took him 10 years to put his life-or-death experience into words, eager on this day to tell Dave Freeman the crucial role he played.

“On the way past the TV, I noticed you were feeling pretty urgent about the situation,” Blackburn said to Freeman, while the two talked at his rebuilt church.  “But even then, it didn’t dawn on me what the potential really was.”

Judi and Steve Kirk, pictured above, and Jeff Blackburn and Cassie Gamble, pictured below, talk about the warning May 4, 2007 that saved their lives. (KSN Photo)

But Freeman did know, as he tracked the path of the tornado.

“Mile by mile, it’s this close. It’s this close,” Blackburn recounted from that night.

He also wondered what was going through Dave’s mind.  “What was going on with you that night?”

“At that point, we were just thinking what else can we do? What else can we say?” Freeman said.

The warnings convinced Jeff’s family, and many others in Greensburg to take shelter.

“All of a sudden, it was just incredible pressure and wind sound,” said Cassie Gamble, Blackburn’s daughter.

Even as the tornado hit, they had no idea of the damage until they emerged from the basement.

“There was no laundry room. There was no floor. The stairs just walked up to nothing,” said Blackburn.

Not far away, Judi and Steve Kirk also survived by hiding downstairs in a spot friends couldn’t believe.

“They were saying, ‘Hey, you said you were under the day bed. There’s not room for you two.  How did you get under this day bed?'” Kirk remembered.  “I said, ‘Well, we were very close and highly motivated!'”

KSN Meteorologist Dave Freeman tracks the Greensburg tornado on May 4, 2007. (KSN File Photo)

It’s a funny memory among the many scary ones, knowing Greensburg could have lost much more to the tornado, had it not been for the precious minutes they had to prepare.

“Dave, honestly, your role that night in warning us makes you somebody special to people in Greensburg who were watching you that night,” Blackburn said to Freeman.

“Just watching the replays of your television show that night and the compassion you felt for us, that uplifts us, just to know that,” said Kirk.

Because of his forecasting of the Greensburg tornado, Dave Freeman was named Broadcaster of the Year in 2008 by the National Weather Association. It’s the second time he’s won the award.

LOOKING BACK | KSN warns Greensburg of the tornado, first damage video


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