By Marj Oleske
“The damage was almost terrifying. It is horrible what an F5 tornado can do in a matter of minutes.” Stuart Bucholz, Martin Volunteer Fireman spoke of his experience helping in the aftermath of the recent Moore, Oklahoma tornado. A small band of volunteer firemen and Explorers traveled to Oklahoma to help in any way they could. Led by Stuart Bucholz, the group included Carol Boche, Heather Boche, Mary Strand, and Explorers Taylor Fuchs and Eric Kiefer.
Fire Chief Chris O’Bryan asked Bucholz what he learned that would be helpful if a tornado struck here at home. “If something like that happened here, there would be no Martin left. It was very hard to imagine the damage. What you see on tv is bad, but seeing it in person is ten times worse. It’s difficult to imagine an entire town being reduced to splinters.”
Explorer Eric Kiefer echoed Bucholz’s reaction. “I had mixed feelings about what we experienced. Nothing can prepare a person for it. It was really nasty out there. I hope it never happens in Martin.”
Following the news of the Oklahoma tornado, a few of the firemen were talking about the possibility of going to help. Some of the Explorers shared that concern, and with a few phone calls and necessary paperwork, the group was on their way on the morning of Thursday, May 23.
An acquaintance of Carol Boche, Jennifer and Chad Scott, who live in Edmond, Oklahoma, invited the group to use their yard as a campground. They were prepared with tents and camping gear. The continued stormy weather changed their plans, and they were welcomed into the Scott home for the week.
The group of six spent the majority of their days helping individual families recover personal belongings in Moore and Newcastle. “We found photo albums, lots of special belongings, and a birth certificate. The group also spent some of their time working in an assigned area coordinated by local authorities,” commented Bucholz.
According to Boche, “People were happy to find small items, to have a sense of normalcy. We helped pull medication out of the rubble of the home of an older lady. We saved two cats from under the rubble, and saved two dogs from being hit by traffic.”
She continued, “Each day we had to drive by the 7-11 business that was demolished and the schools that were torn apart as well. It was truly difficult to process for the first couple of days. I cannot begin to imagine how actually going through the whole thing would be. Everyone we worked with and talk to were so happy and thankful for any kind of help, whether it be moving debris, looking for a personal item or just getting a hug from us. It was truly an amazing but melancholy experience.”
Boche was very impressed with the work done by the younger two. “Eric and Taylor did an awesome job. They handled it well. It was a lot for a sixteen year old to take in. They worked very hard.”
“I don’t know how to explain the attitudes of the people we helped,” continued Boche. “They just pull up their bootstraps and go forward. The local response to disasters is amazing. Everybody helps everybody.”
“The people we met considered us their friend, and we were treated like family,” added Bucholz. “We even met people from South Dakota.”
“I learned a lot about friendship,” agreed Kiefer. “It’s a small world, meeting people from Pine Ridge who had moved down there.”
Through conversations, people with South Dakota ties were surprised to hear that their helpers were from Martin. “You’re from Martin? I’m from Martin!”
The group was in agreement that they were very glad to be back home, and were very proud indeed, to be from Martin.
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