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President Bush tours Greensburg

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, May 9, 2007, at 11:19 a.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Jan. 24, 2008, at 5:15 p.m.

President Bush is spending his time in Greensburg hugging women and shaking men's hands as he surveys the destruction and offers support to the 1,400 people displaced by the killer tornado that struck Friday.

At the John Deere dealership, he viewed the smashed combines and busted-up tractors, doling out hugs to survivors and words of thanks to volunteers.

He arrived by helicopter about 10:15 a.m., after first flying over Greensburg to take in the full scope of the tornado's fury, then driving through town in a motorcade of at least 20 vehicles carrying local officials, the governor, congressmen, a senator, reporters and Secret Service agents.

As the vehicles passed, some people lining the road held up signs in the rain; others just kept picking through debris, not bothering to look up.

He wore a shirt that in "gimme cap" country looked startlingly pink from a distance, but proved to be a farmer's check up close, and sturdy work boots -- appropriate given the debris that still litters the ground.

Bush gave no speech, focusing instead on meeting with individuals. He took a break after about two hours to briefly address reporters:

"I am struck by the character of the people here," he said. "They are willing to do what it takes to rebuild. America is blessed to have such people."

He then went back to walking the town.

Hamish Ogle, a 17-year-old volunteer from nearby Haviland, walked up to Bush, asking, "Can I shake your hand?"

When the president learned Ogle was an exchange student from New Zealand, he smiled and asked: "Are you enjoying it here?"

After the encounter, Ogle marveled to strangers: "I was talking to him! It's crazy!"

Check Kansas.com for updates.

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