Wayland firefighter Dean Casali has seen destruction before, but that couldn’t have prepared him for what he saw during his recent visit to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to drop off a tractor-trailer full of supplies.
“If you hadn’t been there before, you’d think it was just one big scrap yard,” Casali said, speaking of streets in Alabama hardest hit during the late April tornadoes. “There are piles of debris everywhere. You really can’t describe it.”
Wayland’s Board of Selectmen Monday night, in front of a standing-room-only crowd in the Selectmen’s Meeting Room at the Town Building, presented Casali with a certificate of commendation and appreciation for spearheading a relief effort for victims of the April 27 Alabama tornadoes.
The supply collection began after Casali’s sister, Diana, a student at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, called her parents and asked them to fill their GMC Yukon with supplies when they headed south to pick her up.
Casali sent a text message to his fellow firefighters asking if they could pitch in some supplies. The message spread to the Wayland Police Department and beyond.
In three days’ time, Casali said, what started as an SUV full of supplies became an SUV with a trailer, then a Budget truck, then an 53-foot tractor-trailer.
“I was blown away,” Casali said.
Board of Selectmen member Steve Correia joked Monday night that by the time his family arrived to drop off their donations, he wasn’t sure their items would fit on the truck.
Casali said he didn’t know the exact weight of the supplies he and Wayland Fire Department Lt. Robert Dorey, who drove the truck, toted south. They were able to bypass the scales at weigh stations along the way, but Casali said the cargo weighed about 80,000 pounds.
“Brothers and sisters worked together in the Casali family and brothers and sisters worked together in the Wayland Fire Department,” Wayland Fire Chief Robert Loomer told the crowd Monday night. “It’s just a wonderful story … about two families – the Casali family and the Wayland Fire Department family – and how they came together."
Casali said he would like to continue taking supplies south, but it just isn’t feasible. Instead, he’s doing what he can from Wayland.
He’s set up a page on Facebook, “Bama Relief: Help Us Support Tuscaloosa,” to help promote other relief efforts, and he’s directing individuals who want to donate money to contact the United Way of West Alabama.
“Everyone’s helping each other out,” Casali said of the people in the affected area. “People who lost everything are helping people out. Now that our big thing is kind of over, I’m kind of spreading their word through my page.”