Ed Krech volunteers in Alabama with his truck camper helping victims of the April 27th tornado outbreak. Here’s his story and some information on how we can all get involved, and help.
We prepared a list of questions for Ed’s phone interview, but they weren’t necessary. After cheerfully saying, “Hello” and asking how we were doing, Ed began to unravel the story of his experiences helping the people of Alabama as they recover from the devastating tornados of April 27th.
Angela and I just listened, rapt in his words, touched by his emotion, and deeply inspired by the selfless and giving nature Ed has for his fellow man. As he concluded his story, Ed explained it best, “I see the best of mankind in times like this. Everyone is helping each other and people are loving each other. I love it. I step back and think there is hope for our world. We are a good people. We just don’t hear enough about it”.
We feel privileged to know Ed, and hope his story inspires you, as he did us, to do what we can to help the victims of the recent tornadoes. For starters, we have a link to the Red Cross, one of the organizations Ed supports for tornado relief efforts. Truck Camper Magazine has made a donation to the Red Cross in Ed’s honor. We hope you can help too.
Ed Krech in Alabama
ABOVE: Ed’s Outfitter truck camper next to the barn where he camped out
Currently, I’m in Rainsville, Alabama, which is ten miles west of Fort Payne, Alabama, home of the country group Alabama. I’ve been here in Alabama since a few days after the tornado ripped through.
When I started helping out, I was in Hatton, Alabama. When I first got to Alabama it was cold and pouring rain. It was awful. After four or five hours of working outside, I was soaked to the bone. It was just a mess.
There looked like there was a lot of help in Hatton, and the recovery effort was pretty well organized. So I started looking for another place to help out. I was going to travel to Tuscaloosa, but then came here to Rainsville because this place got hammered and not many people were here helping because Rainsville hadn’t received much publicity after the tornado. Here in DeKalb County, Alabama, there were thirty-five to forty people killed. The houses are totally gone in some places.
Pack Up and Go Help
ABOVE: Ed volunteering in Rainsville, Alabama
Both times I’ve volunteered, I’ve just packed up and left. The first thing I do when I arrive is contact the local Church of Christ, of which I’m a member back in Tennessee. After that, I find the local city hall or sheriff’s department and start talking to them. When I get there I say, “I’m from Franklin, Tennessee and here to help”.
Sometimes I have had to register and wear something to show I’m a volunteer. The local churches are on the forefront of things. People love to have you come in and be a part of it. And the people you help are so thankful.
They also feed you well. Today we had lunch and the ribs fell off the bone. It’s great southern cooking. I had creamed corn, mashed potatoes, homemade rolls, and, for dessert, apple cobbler with ice cream on it. It was a great lunch! I’ve actually lost weight being down here. I’ve gotten thinner and I’m looking good.
Helping Out in Alabama
What we’ve been doing is cutting a lot of timber. Before I came here, I knew trees were down so I came to Alabama with two chainsaws. There are lots of trees laying on their sides and trees that fell on houses or drives. FEMA is telling people that the trees need to be cut up and folks have to get the trees and debris off the road.
There are huge oak trees on their side and we’re trying to cut them up and move them. Every time we were cutting these huge oak trees, I thought I was committing a sin. It had the prettiest grain you’ve ever seen. You could have cut the biggest planks and made the most beautiful stuff. I couldn’t believe that nobody wanted it.
We’re helping mainly people that are old, need help, and don’t have insurance. We are going to build a porch for an old couple tomorrow. They like to sit out on their porch and they are like eighty to ninety years old. They don’t have much.
ABOVE: Ed’s friend, Kevin, who is also helping with the Alabama clean-up
People can even just help move things and get things out of the way. We’re cleaning up a lot. People who come deliver meals and stuff. You don’t have to be a heathen lumber jack like I’m trying to be. It’s rewarding. It’s fun talking to my buddies. I’ve met up with a thirty-eight year old who’s also helping. He’s a good young man and we’ve enjoyed working together and we’ve accomplished a lot.
Some members of the church where I’m helping now needed help financially. So, I called back to my church in Tennessee and asked for money. I got $10,000 from my church to help people.
Stories From Alabama
There was a fourteen year old kid. In 2007, his mom, dad, and him lost everything in a fire. He was talking to his daddy on his cell phone and the tornado was tearing the house up. The boy was under the steps and his dad said, “don’t move, don’t move”. The kid said the house was falling apart. When his dad arrived, the house was leveled. The only thing standing was the commode. And there was his boy without a scratch on him. I told the kid to touch me and give me some of his good luck.
There was another house were we were that was totally gone. The couple in the house had their income tax refund in the house. They wanted to know how to get the money. A guy found it on a golf course outside of Chattanooga which is fifty to sixty miles from here.
ABOVE: The credit union after the tornado hit
The credit union here is gone. The concrete pad is there, but everything else is gone. Guess where they found the vault? Six miles from here with $175,000 of cash in it. This vault must weigh at least 1,000 pounds!
The rescuers were looking for some guy and couldn’t find him. Someone looked up and he was up in the tree. He had been ripped to pieces by all the metal roofing that came off the nearby buildings.
You see people where their houses are destroyed. There are ladies bending over and looking through their things. They raise back up, wipe their brow, and look around in a circle. Then, they sit down and look around. They’ve lost it all. It’s just gone. It’s somewhere between here and Knoxville. Their whole life has blown away.
I met a lady who had to bury her daughter-in-law and granddaughter. I have two granddaughters and two grandsons. Her son can’t even go to the funeral because of his injuries. I didn’t know what to say to her. I just pray with these people and know there’s plenty to do.
My Truck and Camper
My truck and my camper are doing well. I couldn’t do this whole thing without a camper. I’ve parked in places you wouldn’t believe. It’s been a great resource for doing something like this. I have not have hook-ups since I’ve been here, and I’ve been totally fine because of my solar panels and four batteries. I’m dry camping, doing well, and taking care of myself.
I’m comfortable. I’m warm. I get good meals. I can brush my teeth and take my contacts out. I lay down, turn on the radio and I listen to the Rick & Bubba Show or 50s and 60s rock and roll. That’s my era, Gordon. I don’t have television and I don’t want a television. Really, I’m fortunate. It’s amazing to see where people are sleeping in after the tornado. I’m living good. How many guys have Starbucks every morning? It’s nice. It’s very nice.
I can’t say enough about my Outfitter camper. My Outfitter isn’t big, but it can get me into tight places. It’s working great and everyone who sees me asks me how I can go four weeks with no hook ups. A local RV facility lets me dump my tanks when I want to.
Dave Rogers helped me put my Outfitter truck camper rig together. I give him so much credit because I have a camper that allows me to do this. Dave is fantastic and really encouraged me about what to put on this camper and what to do. Now I’m here and I don’t have to do anything. It’s top notch.
Finding Fuel, Propane, and Supplies
At first people told me that there would be challenges getting gas and diesel. The service stations in Tennessee had people lined up from Alabama getting fuel. I knew that ahead of time, so I came prepared.
My camper has jerrycans on the back for fuel. I have one with gas and one with diesel, so I have enough. A week after the tornado, the electricity came back on and the gas stations opened back up. The stations could not pump fuel without electricity.
I haven’t had a problem finding propane. I haven’t used that much. Even when there’s cold weather, I don’t use much because my camper is so efficient. I have a twenty pound propane tank. When it was cold, I ran the heat. And I cook my Starbucks coffee every morning and fill up a thermos. I like my Starbucks coffee.
Before getting here, my wife packed food for me and we froze it. My Outfitter has a nice freezer. It runs off DC or solar. I’ll pull something out of the freezer in the morning and that afternoon it’s thawed out. To heat it up, I’ll put it on the stove or in the microwave and nuke it.
I don’t have a problem getting anything. When I was helping in Mississippi and Louisiana, there were more problems because of the flooding. They’re having flooding again so I may be returning to help. I will get what I need before I get there.
In terms of personal safety, I don’t put myself in a situation where I’m concerned about safety. I sometimes park and camp near the police station or the temporary radio control center, so I don’t worry about it. I also have a shot gun and that makes quite a noise when I cock it. I have only had to do that once in my life.
There are usually a lot of EMTs where we are. I know that things can happen when you’re using chainsaws. I carry this stuff that was used in combat to stop bleeding. If I’m working with another guy with a chainsaw, we never cut at the same time. There have been some young people who get a little rash and jump in too fast. We talk to them about the dangers. We want everyone to walk away and be okay. I know my limited. I’ve gotten cramps in my leg, but that’s the only thing.
My wife sometimes says that she’s expecting a call everyday that your husband died cutting up logs. She’s extremely concerned, but she goes along with it. She would probably be here too if she wasn’t taking care of our two granddaughters.
How to Get Involved
I think all of us who are able to RV and do the things are very fortunate. If you are retired, and if you want to give back something, this is a great experience. It’s not for everyone. I know people have ailments and bodies that can’t handle it.
I have to come. I have no choice. I want to come and be a part of it. I now have friends who will always be my friends. We’ve got an unusual bond. I’ve helped them and they’ve helped me.
I wish I could do more. I wish my body would let me do more. Since the last time I’ve helped out, I’ve had heart surgery and my retinas are falling apart in my eyes. The doctors blame it on me helping out in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. They think it was from the mold and now I’m suffering the consequences from it.
I’m seventy and very fortunate. I hate to see people feel like this and be in these conditions. That’s when I see that I’m so blessed. If you can afford to have a truck and truck camper and be retired, you are fortunate. If you can, give them a week or a weekend. We have a lot of people come down on the weekends.
Right now I’m working with the Hatton Church of Christ and Central Church of Christ in Rainsville, Alabama. Church groups and the Red Cross are both taking donations for the people down here.
I see the best of mankind in times like this. Everyone is helping each other and people are loving each other. I love it. I step back and think there is hope for our world. We are a good people. We just don’t hear enough about it.
The main thing is, who do you think gets the most out of it?
On to Mississippi
I have said to my wife that whenever I leave here that I’m not going home. I’m going to Mississippi where they’ve had the recent floods. There’s also a church in Louisiana that has a bad situation.
I’ll be home by June 26th because I’m going fishing for three weeks in Colorado.