By Chris Bavender
When Dave Lytle saw news coverage of the devastation caused by tornadoes that ripped through Kentucky on Dec. 10, the Carmel businessman knew he wanted to help.
“I sent a text to my lead installer and said I was thinking of going down, and he took like four minutes to reply and said, ‘I’m in,’” said Lytle, owner of Concrete Craft. “Then I asked my son, Scott, and he was in, and he talked to his girlfriend, Lily (Eggleston), and she was willing to go along, too.”
So, Lytle loaded up that day, and on Dec. 12, he, Scott and Lily left for the hard-hit city of Bowling Green, Kentucky. On Dec. 13, lead installer Steve Brown joined them.
“Monday morning, we were communicating with the Bowling Green Fire Dept., who told everyone inquiring to meet the city emergency management group at an area that was the dispatch center that was specific for all the volunteers who wanted to provide labor and had chainsaws, etc.,” Lytle said. “They had six different areas in the path of the storm that were identified, and Areas 1 to 4 were still closed off to volunteers for safety reasons because there was still search and rescue going on.”
The group was sent to a neighborhood deemed safe for volunteers, where they met two people who had been in bed when the tornado ripped through their home.
“It was pretty eye-opening stuff in that they survived. The roof was gone, but a good portion of their house was still intact,” Lytle said. “Monday and Tuesday, we worked there helping to salvage what we could, boxing it up. We would run out of boxes, and all of a sudden a truck would come through and drop off more boxes.”
Wednesday, the group was cleared to go into Area 1, which was one of the hardest-hit areas. They had to provide code words for the National Guard troops stationed there to be allowed in.
“It was just devastating. There were at least a dozen homes that were just gone, three homes, in particular, where seven people had died. Technically, six, because a little girl was still missing and they hadn’t been able to find her,” Lytle said. “We were taking what was left of homes, the drywall, two-by-fours, cinder block and bricks, and moving it to the curb where heavy equipment would come through and pick it up.”
Later that day, the group headed back to Indiana. Lytle said seeing the devastation in person was almost indescribable.
“It was honestly two totally different worlds, seeing it on the news and then on our own. The pictures taken are not even close to being able to grasp what I call the ‘in-person 360-degree view’ of what is going on,” he said. “Steve and I were talking about that, that pictures don’t even do it justice of just how powerful and devastating it is.”
Lytle doesn’t have any plans to return but is open to the possibility.
“We had a job scheduled to start Monday (Dec. 13), and the customer was just wonderful. She told us to of course go down and just let her know when we’re back,” Lytle said. “I am thinking about it but have no plans yet to make another trip.”