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State Rep. McKinney helps dig out neighbors

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, May 5, 2007, at 10:03 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Jan. 24, 2008, at 5:15 p.m.

As the tornado swirled above him and his youngest daughter, Dennis McKinney waited for his neighbor and her 1-year-old son to come over to his basement for shelter.

But as the danger came closer, McKinney had to take shelter himself.

"They didn't make it, and we were really worried about them," McKinney recalled Saturday afternoon.

He and his youngest daughter, 14-year-old Lindy, ducked into a tub in the basement bathroom of their Greensburg home.

They waited there as the storm shook their home apart.

When it was over, they went up the stairs -- removing debris with each step -- and went next door to check on the woman and her baby.

Nothing was left of their house either, and there was no basement.

McKinney, the Kansas House minority leader who grew up in the Greensburg area, expected the worst.

"I thought she would be dead," he said.

He yelled.

Someone yelled back from under the rubble.

"We started digging," he said. "We found the baby. He looked at me like 'What took you so long?' "

The baby was at his mother's side, inside a bathtub.

"She was penned in the wreckage and so was he," McKinney said. "She was crying a little bit, but she was pretty composed. We told her we had her baby there and he was OK."

He and the Greensburg school superintendent and the high school principal helped dig her out. Then they went to other homes along the street and dug those people out.

"We quickly had everybody in our stretch of homes accounted for," McKinney said.

It's amazing that people without basements survived, he said.

"With my faith, I have to believe that God was protecting them," he said.

McKinney's wife was at a state forensics tournament in Salina with 26 students.

"It turned out to be a good thing that they were gone," he said.

Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or dgruver@wichitaeagle.com.

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