DAWSON SPRINGS, Ky. –
Tornadoes spawned over the western part of Kentucky and affected at least six of the surrounding states leaving many without power and homes triggering the National Guard’s activation Dec. 11, 2021.
One of those guardsmen activated, Spc. Zach Neisz, a resident of Dawson Springs living about 8 miles north of where the tornadoes touched down.
Immediately after the storm hit, he and his brother-in-law got in a car and headed to the affected areas to assist first responders extricating people from the rubble that was once their home.
“I grabbed my trauma kit and my flashlight, and also I grabbed an ax from the trunk of my car and we just went,” said Neisz, with the 130th Engineer Support Battalion. “We helped the first responders pull people out of the debris off Keigan and Pine Street. It was something out of a Michael Bay film, it was crazy. You could just hear moans and groans through all the debris on both sides of the street. We just searched houses and searched for people.”
Neisz spent the next 27 hours aiding local law enforcement, helping search for people needing help and rescuing them from being trapped in their homes.
Zach has lived in the area over 20 years, has grown up here and works here. His close connection to the town motivated him to spring into action.
“The area I live in only received strong wind and lighting, but we could hear the bulk of the storm, but we didn’t realize how bad it was until the first responders started to arrive; that’s when we jumped in my car and headed down.”
Staying home and doing nothing was never an option for him
“I couldn’t sit back and not do anything,” he said. “It’s devastating to see my town this way, this is one of the smallest towns in the area, so we didn’t have a lot to lose, but what we did lose, was major aspects of the town.”
He considers himself lucky and blessed since his house suffered little damage and his wife and ten-month old baby are safe.
His family has recently received power back to their home but his cousin Peggy Holmes’ house was destroyed and wiped off its foundation, as well as several of his friends in the area whose apartments that they were living in are completely gone.
“It’s just devastating and it’s going to be a long road ahead to recover and to rebuild but the community efforts have been outstanding a million-fold. The number of volunteers and resources, private farmers, contractors bringing equipment to help has been outstanding.”
Now, just a few days later, he is working on state active duty orders in the same area working a traffic control point and managing the flow of traffic coming into downtown.
Neisz’ serving in the National Guard is his way to payback those that helped him and his family during the ice storms that hit Kentucky in 2009.
"This is why I joined,” he said. "I was a little kid during the ice storms in 2009 and a National Guardsman came out to my house and helped me and my family and I've always wanted to pay that back too.”
He added one more final thought for his community.
"I hate it that it hit so close to home but I'm glad that I am here and that I'm able to make a difference."