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Reporter's notebook: Everyday heroes of EKY

Karyn Czar
Hunter and Tanner started a movement a few days after the EKY floods. They saddled up and spent days taking supplies and checking on people that no one could reach.

Award winning reporter Karyn Czar has been to eastern Kentucky numerous times over the past month covering efforts to help residents recover from the devastating floods. Along the way she's met many good samaritans; including some on horseback. Here's her latest audio diary.

Four weeks ago, flood waters began to rise in Eastern Kentucky, and first responders from agencies across the state immediately deployed to save lives and help thousands of people who were displaced. But there were other heroes among them.

“Any of you all need supplies, food?” A volunteer asks a neighbor passing by

“Nah I’m alright.” He says, “I think we're okay right now. There is a house that uh can’t get out. Their bridge is washed away.”

“Where at?” That's Molly Napier Noble. She's the chief executive officer at Mary Breckenridge ARH Hospital in Hayden.

Day after day, she loads up her truck with supplies and heads out into the depths of the hollers of Eastern Kentucky. Her grandson Aidan helps her navigate around buckled roads. Their mission on this trip is to try and check on an old friend. Mission accomplished.

Molly smiles as she reaches the front steps of a tiny rust painted home. “It's so good to see you, Miss Betty.”

A relieved Betty welcomes us in. “Yeah, so good to see you too.”

The pair hugged and caught up, then straight to work. Boxes of food and water were carried to Betty's kitchen. A neighbor who had also been trapped is handed a stockpile of necessities. Even four-legged family members are covered.

“I’ll take some dog food!” Betty says and within seconds Aidan lugs over a large bag. “Here’s some dog food.”

This is the daily routine. Noble isn't alone.

About an hour away in Perry County, April Stamper, is a school nurse who watched broken hearted as floodwaters rose, filling the Buckhorn School where she works. You can see the window of her office. Behind the pulled shades is a room full of medical supplies she had just unloaded the night before the deadly rains fell. Every bit of it destroyed. The nearby medical clinic escaped damage, but there was no electricity.

“But our medical clinic, MCHC Medical Clinic, was unavailable to people, and people couldn't get out.” Stamper continued, “and we had nobody in the area. And sometimes I think God, is this why you sent me, the ability to be a nurse?”

She sprang into action, creating a makeshift clinic down the street at the Buckhorn Children and Family Services Center. Within hours, it expanded to a massive distribution center overflowing with supplies.

Stamper said everyone pitched in. “It was just like we had kids that came out of nowhere. School kids, basketball teams, anybody that had children that were able to carry. I mean, they could be three years old, they were here helping us. We would form a line all the way into that gym from whoever was dropping it off. And we were just, as soon as we get it unloaded, we had people that needed it, and they would come and get it.”

A constant flow of neighbors came through to get what they needed. But Stamper worried about the people who were still trapped in their homes. Enter Hunter and Tanner on horseback. They stuffed their saddlebags and headed out to areas that were unreachable.

“They were just so relieved to see somebody get supplies.” Hunter said, “they were probably hungry, thirsty. We were able to get water and food and supplies to them, and you can just tell they were just happy to see somebody.”

Tanner added, “They were more tickled to see us, you know, than anything they just, you know, they were in a bad place, but now they ain't (sic) no tougher people than the ones around here.”

Word spread, creating a movement. More riders on horseback arrived, some coming from neighboring states to trudge through dangerous terrain.

“There was one woman, had a ten-day old baby. You know they couldn't get in or out. They said, oh, you can't get up that holler. I said watch us.” Tanner said they weren’t deterred. “I mean, it was rough, but we was (sic) jumping gullies and crossing creeks and climbing up cliffs. But we got there.”

Hunter said it was hard work, but they would do it again. “We rode almost 30 miles the first day. It was a long day, and they was (sic) tired by the end of it, that's for sure.”

As the waters receded, ATVs were able to get to some of the hardest hit areas. Hunter says they're at the ready. “They need us, we'll be there.”

Over the last four weeks, I've met dozens of eastern Kentuckians stepping up to do extraordinary things. The two words I've heard most to describe the people here are resilient and hopeful.

“And I just wish that everybody could have that peace in their heart,” Stamper said, “that they know that everything's going to be okay and to take one step at a time.”

And they ask that as the weeks pass since this deadly disaster not to be forgotten, so far, more than $8 million have been raised to help flood victims just through the eastern Kentucky relief fund.

Karyn Czar joined the WUKY News team July 1, 2013, but she's no stranger to radio.