Disaster News.net May 10, 2005
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On a sunny Saturday afternoon in Franklin, Kansas, residents gathered to celebrate the town’s rich history – even the painful parts.

Heather Moyer

FRANKLIN, Kansas (May 10, 2005) —

Devastated by a powerful tornado two years ago, Franklin residents are still rebuilding homes and much of the almost wiped-out downtown business district. Saturday’s event was in honor of National Historic Preservation Month, and those in attendance were able to look back at Franklin’s lifetime of almost 100 years.

The Community Picnic included displays, games, and programs regarding preservation of historic items remaining after the tornado.

“It went very well,” said Phyllis Bitner, chair of the city’s heritage committee. “We had a great turnout.”

The crowd was in very good spirits despite the town and community park still looking a little bleak, she noted. “We still have stripped trees everywhere, and some homes are not rebuilt yet. But people are excited to see the City Hall and the park being rebuilt.”

At Saturday’s community picnic, residents looked through photos of Franklin through the years and shared stories. Bitner said one popular event was guessing which old building was which based on old photographs, saying even many of the town’s “old-timers” were stumped at times.

The heritage committee is holding onto relics that survived the 2003 tornado, including pieces of a local church, concrete markers from around the town, and numerous old documents from the town and from the residents’ own collections. Bitner said some of the outdoor items that survived the twister will be incorporated into concrete structures and columns around the new community park.

“We’re also going to have a heritage room in the new city hall,” she added. “We really do have all kinds of stuff.”

A time capsule will also be embedded into a concrete column in the new park as well. The capsule will include newspaper articles, photos, and even drawings by some of the town’s children.

The community picnic included an awards presentation for some of the volunteers involved since the 2003 tornado. “It’s amazing how dedicated the volunteers still are,” said Bitner. “Some have been instrumental in the process.”

The community park is still in its very basic stages, but a community volunteer day on June 4 will hopefully spruce up the land with grass and flowers, she added. Despite the current bleak look and slow rebuild the town is experiencing, Bitner said the residents are determined to bring the town back to where it was.

“Everybody is still sticking to it,” she said.

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