Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



On the road for recovery

NORTHWOOD, N.D. Brandon Wall and Nick Swenson backed a U-Haul up to the back door of a bank here Friday, carried out big handfuls of stuff, loaded it into the trailer and then got away in the middle of the night, headed south.

NORTHWOOD, N.D. Brandon Wall and Nick Swenson backed a U-Haul up to the back door of a bank here Friday, carried out big handfuls of stuff, loaded it into the trailer and then got away in the middle of the night, headed south.

But it was a good thing.

Wall and Swenson, both 22 and former classmates in high school in Northwood, were making last-minute preparations to drive 20 hours to help out Tennessee tornado victims for a week.

They left about 10:30 p.m., planning to drive straight through, arriving in Gallatin, Tenn., about 8 p.m. today, said Wall. The young farmer announced last week he wanted to organize some help from Northwood, which had a tornado tear through the town Aug. 26.

Because volunteers from across the region and the country helped his hometown, Wall said he was moved to help people hit by a barrage of tornadoes Feb. 5. Dozens of tornadoes hit five states, killing about 59 people.


Several communities in Tennessee got hit as bad or worse than any, so Wall chose that state.

He spoke at his church, called newspapers, went on local radio and people responded. More than $2,000 was donated to the Tennessee tornado relief fund set up at Alerus bank in Northwood, Wall said. People sent him more than $900 to use for expenses or to help tornado victims there, he said.


People donated diapers and other nonperishables, piling them all week in a corner of the bank, for Wall and Swenson to haul down to Tennessee.

The women of eight churches in the Mayville-Portland, N.D., community seven Lutheran ones, Aurdal, Bang, Stordahl, Riverside, Norway, Norman and Bruflat, plus Our Lady of Peace, the only Catholic parish around donated 59 quilts for the road trippers to deliver to tornado victims down south.

Wall owns his own farming operation and works for a neighboring farmer. The good crop and gonzo prices help make it possible for him to take a week to go down and do disaster relief, Wall said. "We had a pretty good year," he said.

On Friday, he bought a looks-like-brand-new 2006 crew-cab Chevrolet Silverado at Northwood's lone car dealership, Krabbenhoft Chevrolet. "I was thinking about buying one anyway, so I got it for this trip," he said.

Swenson will miss three work days from his job at Northwood Co-op Oil. "I got other people to take my shift, so it works out," Swenson said.


But he had to work until 10 p.m. Friday, hence the late start.

'Debris clean-up'When they get to Tennessee, they will do the same thing they spent weeks doing in Northwood a few months ago.

"Debris clean-up," Wall said. "We're taking some chainsaws, some shovels, I suppose, whatever we can use."

Tyson Bohlman, spokesman for Bobcat of Grand Forks, contacted a dealership in Tennessee, Williams Equipment in Jackson, which offered to donate the use of a Bobcat skid-steer loader for Wall to use for a week in Gallatin.

Wall contacted the Gallatin Chamber of Commerce, which is coordinating volunteers, and will report there this weekend.

The Northwood men will be back home next Friday, after a quick stop in Nashville on the way home, Wall said.

Signs remainSigns of the tornado that devastated Northwood remain, seen in the topped off trees, empty lots and still-wrecked old brick buildings downtown. But this city of 1,000 is back on its feet, nearer to full recovery than to the tornado.

Although most homes were damaged and a few dozen were ruined, and some people had to leave town, on the bank's bulletin board Friday was a brief but meaningful advertisement: "For rent: a two-bedroom apartment. Currently renovating; call Jeannie."


Wall saw his parents' home hit by the tornado. And he feels this trip to return relief to tornado victims elsewhere is part of Northwood's recovery.

"They've got just devastation down there, I guess, way worse than we got here in Northwood," Wall said, minutes before heading for Tennessee.

He hopes others make similar trips.

"I got a couple of other guys who might be going down after we get back," he said.

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237 or (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; email him at slee@gfherald.com .

What To Read Next
Artificial intelligence can now act as an artist or a writer. Does that mean AI is ready to play doctor? Many institutions, including Mayo Clinic, believe that AI is ready to become a useful tool.
Josh Sipes was watching an in-flight movie when he became aware the flight crew were asking for help assisting a woman who was experiencing a medical problem.
Nonprofit hospitals are required to provide free or discounted care, also known as charity care; yet eligibility and application requirements vary across hospitals. Could you qualify? We found out.
Crisis pregnancy centers received almost $3 million in taxpayer funds in 2022. Soon, sharing only medically accurate information could be a prerequisite for funding.