(How is your grandfather doing?)
He's getting better. Yeah, he is getting better.
(What happened to him?)
Well, the tornado came through and he thought it was getting done, and then it made its way up the stairs and it took him.
(What kind of injuries did he have?)
Just out of respect for him, he is getting better, and that's the big thing. For an 81-year-old man, he is a fighter.
(And this is on your dad's side of the family?)
My dad's side, yeah.
(Can you talk about your experience back home a little bit?)
Yeah, kind of the initial thing is shock obviously because it's a place where I grew up and it's hard to recognize the area. You imagine a skyline with houses and trees and landscape, and really all that is there is mangled trees and rubble. You can see some semblance...it is kind of like you put things in piles now, so the streets are clear and people have ripped plywood in half and wrote street signs on them so you know where the streets are and things like that. But yeah, it's a pretty devastated area right now.
(How long were you there?)
We found out, the tornado hit about a quarter to five on Sunday afternoon. We were visiting family down in Kansas City, and got a phone call. We were going to go that night yet but then we found out there was an ammonia leak, one of the elevators was hit. So they were evacuating the city, so we said why go if we're just going to sit? We got a night's rest, and then my brother-in-law and I took off real early Monday morning on Memorial Day. Linde (his wife) and the kids and my sister-in-law took off later, so we were there Monday all day and then Tuesday we were there until four. Then there really wasn't much you could do. That's why we decided to come back, because the insurance adjustors and everyone has to come through. You could be raking your lawn and stuff, but they might come with a bulldozer and demolish it, so it doesn't make a lot of sense to fine-tooth comb it. It's actually raining there right now, with actually tornado watches. It's kind of tough.
(When Brett Favre went through this with Hurricane Katrina, it was a very personal thing for him. Can you talk about what this has been like emotionally for you as you've tried to help?)
In the end it just continues for me to confirm the reality that life is about relationships, both vertically and horizontally. So the horizontal piece of that is how we can we help, because that is what matters. It was kind of a no-brainer with family and that is the place where I grew up. I went to church there and played high school football there, met my wife there. There are a lot of memories in that town. So just the natural reaction is how can I help? That's just kind of been the response.
(Was your parents' house or lumberyard affected?)
No, they are north of town. They are in a different town called Kesley, where I grew up. This is where the high school was at. Basically my direct family, my immediate family that was involved, would be my in-laws, Linde's parents, and then my grandfather.
(Did you have a preconceived thought of what it would be like, and then could you compare that to what it was like?)
That night, Sunday night, we went on the Internet and there were already choppers in the air and some of the aerial footage. People were calling us and telling us where to look, so we had seen a little bit of it and some of the devastation, but nothing really prepares you for seeing it live. Again, from the church I was part of, there were 22 families that were affected. There have been over 200 homes, high school, grocery store, the gas station, kind of all of the things that make that town are no longer there. That's the rebuilding that is going on.
(Can you talk about so many of the positives with people coming together?)
Yeah, it really is. It's actually pretty amazing. They're resilient people in that community. It's a tight-knit group, and I tell you, there was a real spirit of camaraderie. You know, it's a small town in Iowa and you had firefighters and response workers from neighboring counties. I've seen people from Wisconsin; we have some electrical people there. So a lot of people coming to help, and I think that's kind of the neat thing. People are fighting back to back, rather than trying to do it on their own. Neighbors helping neighbors, and they get their yard cleaned up, and then they say, 'hey, how can I help?' People just walking up a driveway and say, 'hey, what do you need?' To me, that is pretty special and it allows people to pull together. There is a real sense I think after the dazed looks that were initially kind of there, which is to be expected, of somewhat of a determination to continue to say hey, we'll rebuild. They are proud people there.
(When do you think you will be going back?)
We're trying to figure that out. We were going to go back maybe this weekend, but with the rain and stuff, we can't do anything. We're still trying to figure that out.
(Do you have a handle on the monetary donations that have come in from this area?)
Not yet, and actually we are going to pass out some information to everyone. Maybe you guys already have it, I guess. We kind of have two things, both local and national. There is a foundation that has been set up in Aplington, which is the town neighboring, so they are bringing in a lot of money. One of the local TV stations has raised I think $180,000 already, which is a pretty significant number, through the Red Cross. Then we're going to also get people in touch with the Salvation Army. What we found out, Linde and I know (some people) who work here in Green Bay, and they said that people can give here and just put on the memo line, 'Iowa disaster', and 100 percent of the donation will go to Iowa. I talked to the director of the Salvation Army there, who is on site, so that will go to them. A lot of options.
(With how people view you there, you are able to help in more ways than one. That must be very gratifying for you?)
Yeah, I think it is. I am real careful never to use the position that we have been put in, we try not to use it for our own gain necessarily, but when you can do something like this where you get a chance to really help some people that you care a lot about, it is neat. You feel like you have been put in a position for a certain reason, so yeah, that's a good thing.
(Someone had mentioned some of your teammates going back there with you, is that something you still plan on doing and could that be this weekend?)
I don't think this weekend is going to happen. I think I would have been in the vehicle already because we try to maximize our time. Especially with the rain that is going to be there, there is nothing we are going to be able to do. Everyone is probably going to be sitting tight, because everybody is really with family right now and friends because there are no homes to go back to and it's a muddy mess as it stands. Once it clears up, we'll get a better feel during the week again of what kind of opportunities there are, and then we'll speak again next week and assess what we can do.
(Would you like to take some of your teammates back with you?)
If guys are interested. I've had a lot of guys ask how they can help and things, so we'll just see where that goes.
(Does it help you to be back with your football family and out on the field for a little while?)
Yeah, yeah. We've been working the phones pretty hard, and it's always good to come here and be with the guys. Obviously this is a special place for me as well, so it's been good to get back to that as well.
(You and your wife live a life based on your faith, so I suppose that has been something you lean on during this time?)
Oh, totally, and that's really been our hope is the hope in Christ will prevail in the midst of all of this destruction. The reality is that bricks and mortar won't conquer this spirit of the people, so that's really what is going on. I think that is really what is pretty neat in the midst of all of this. Even though there is such pain and loss and the material things, you realize again, like I said, both the vertical relationship and the horizontal relationship, those are the things that matter in life with our Creator and our Redeemer and also with our family and our loved ones. So I guess it kind of affirms that. You know that, but you don't really know with a capital 'K' until you see it.