A tornado struck northeast Iowa a week ago, and seven people were killed. About 220 homes were destroyed, and much of the downtown of Parkersburg, Iowa, (pop.: 1,800) was leveled.
We see these stories in the news an awful lot this time of year, and we feel sad for those who have been affected, but for the most part we move on. This one piqued my interest because four NFL players — Green Bay defensive end Aaron Kampman, Detroit defensive end Jared DeVries, Jacksonville center Brad Meester and Denver offensive lineman Casey Wiegmann — come from there, and I read where Kampman had sent out an urgent appeal for help. So I phoned him to hear his story, and it made me stop in my tracks.
“I remember something my high school football coach, Ed Thomas, said to me when I left home,” said Kampman, who starred at Iowa before becoming a Pro Bowl defensive end in Green Bay. “‘Never forget where you came from.’ Being from here, you can’t forget. When you are from somewhere, wherever it is, it’s your heritage. And anyone from there, it’s a simpler way of life, a tremendous way to grow up. It’s my roots. It was a privilege to grow up there. I’ll never forget.”
The tornado happened eight days ago. Kampman was in Kansas City, visiting relatives, and he would have gone there immediately but was told not to because of gas leaks in the area. He drove five-and-a-half hours with his brother-in-law and was there Monday morning, around 10:30, in time to see his grandfather’s house, or what used to be his grandfather’s house, eviscerated. “In Iowa, you have these fire alarms that go off when severe weather approaches,” Kampman said. “My grandpa went down in his basement, like everyone does, and when he thought the tornado had passed, he went back up into the house. But it came back. Next thing he knew, he was outside.
“The tornado took his house away, with him in it.”
His grandfather was in intensive care last week in Waterloo, about 25 miles away. When he woke up, he was amazed he’d survived. “God is so good to me,” were his first words.
When Kampman walked a couple of blocks over to his high school football coach’s house, his heart sank. Thomas and his wife were outside … outside of nothing but rubble.
I’ve always had a lot of respect for Aaron Kampman, this show how much of a stand up guy he is. Much like the rest of the guys that have come out of that area that are now in the NFL.
Tornados are a part of life here in Iowa in the Spring and Summer months. We’re on the northern end of the “Tornado Alley”. This was particularly bad. Over a mile wide and incredibly powerful. There’s not much left of these towns and they definitely need the help rebuilding.
Give what you can…they need it.