Within an hour after an EF-5 tornado ripped through their community, AT&T employees Melissa Lucht and Ed Stauth were at their office attempting to re-establish some semblance of a telephone network in Greensburg.
For their efforts, they were named recipients of AT&T's first national award for outstanding customer service, the Whitacre Award, AT&T said Monday. Each received $10,000 and a crystal trophy.
The award was presented to the Greensburg workers for "going above and beyond the call of duty," the company said.
Lucht, who rode the May 4 tornado out in the basement of a home she rented on the northern edge of Greensburg, said Monday that she went to check on AT&T's central office because she knew emergency workers and families would need telephone service.
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That was despite losing the roof to her home.
"I walked out and saw my roof and I just kind of wanted to sit down and cry," Lucht said.
But she didn't.
Instead, Lucht started out for her office, which took her about 30 minutes.
"I had to walk," Lucht said. "My pickup was covered in tree limbs."
When she got to the AT&T building, its doors were blocked by debris.
"I had to crawl through a broken window," said Lucht, an eight-year AT&T employee.
Inside, there was ankle-deep water on the floor.
"It wasn't pretty," she said
She and Stauth got some plastic from Stauth's company truck to shield the equipment inside from the rainwater.
By 5 a.m. on May 5, help started to arrive from AT&T offices in Dodge City and Wichita.
Then Lucht, Stauth and the other AT&T employees began to make sure the equipment was working and establish some sort of an operating telephone network.
"It took a little while, but the emergency services had dial tone by noon," Lucht said.
Lucht said she was surprised to receive the national award, especially because she was working at a small AT&T office in rural Kansas.
"I expected to just do my job and not be noticed, good or bad" she said.
The Whitacre Award is the highest honor bestowed to employees, AT&T said. It was named after Ed Whitacre, the company's retired chairman and chief executive.