PAOLA — When Butch and Dustin Walters first entered the west side of Linwood, Kan., on Wednesday, May 29, one day after an EF-4 tornado ripped through the small town, they were surrounded by devastation.
But something caught Dustin’s eye.
Amid the destruction, one large tree remained standing, and next to it, an undisturbed roadside cross. Dustin said the cross, which he assumed was from an earlier accident, served as a symbol of hope in the middle of tragedy.
It’s the kind of hope that he and his father of the Paola-based Walters Excavating wanted to provide with their visit.
Dustin, who went to college at Pittsburg State, said he remembers watching the aftermath of the 2011 Joplin, Mo., tornado and telling his dad that if anything like that ever happened nearby again, they would not hesitate to render their assistance.
“We made a promise that we’d help,” Dustin said.
As soon as they heard about the destruction of the massive tornado that tore through portions of Lawrence, Linwood and surrounding areas May 28, they knew it was time to make good on their promise.
They actually would have arrived in Linwood that very night, but Dustin said they were told by Leavenworth County dispatchers to wait a day and give first responders an opportunity to get into the area.
The next day, Butch and Dustin headed toward Linwood along with a few other employees and some vehicles and equipment useful in clearing debris.
They spent the entire day in the community, doing everything from clearing roads to removing debris so residents could search for anything salvageable.
It was an emotional experience, Dustin said, especially when they tried to comfort residents who lost their homes in the tornado.
“There are no good words,” Dustin said. “Actions sometimes speak louder than words.”