Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma remind us that we are pretty small and fragile when it comes to a natural disaster. A hurricane doesn’t care what your political beliefs are or how much money you have or whether you have Jesus on speedial. The sheer power and force is awesome and humbling and not much can stand in its path. But natural disasters have a way of bringing out the best in people and sometimes those people are lawyers.
A decade ago, a tornado leveled the town of Greensberg, Kansas. At the time, I was the President of the Kansas Bar Association. We wanted to reach out to lawyers in the area to see if we could help. A great country lawyer, Charlie Herd, had lost his home and his office in the tornado. When I called him, he quickly let me know that his family was ok and he couldn’t talk long because he was helping clients.
A massive rebuilding effort was soon underway and help came from everywhere, including a visit from President George W. Bush. In a matter of days, Charlie was up and running in a new office in Coldwater, KS and Greensburg started the long haul back. The hard decisions and hard work come long after the news cameras and politicians leave town. Greenburg did rebound and rebuild but it is a much smaller town today than before the tornado.
A few years later, I received a call from Chief Justice Lawton Nuss’s office informing me that the Kansas Supreme Court wanted to hold Court in Western Kansas. They were looking for suggestions for places to hold court. I told them that there was only one place to do it, Greensburg, KS. The Court came to Greensburg and held oral arguments in the new high school. The town turned out to show their respects. And so did the attorneys from around the area, many of whom had helped in the rebuilding. Many of the Justices remarked on how moved they were by the spirit of the Greensburg people.
We have so much in common and can accomplish so much together. It really shouldn’t take a tornado or a hurricane for us to remember that we are all in this together.