Truck driver continues to provide support in the Ahr valley to this day

Reading time: approx. 3 minutes
Text: Juliane Gringer
Photos: Frank Cremanns

Many truck drivers helped at the site of the flood catastrophe in Rhineland-Palatinate. Frank Cremanns was one of them - and he continues to provide his support to this day. Because he knows that people in the Ahr valley still urgently need help.

When torrential rainfall flooded the Ahr valley in July 2021 it caused dramatic images of destruction. It became immediately clear that many people there needed help. When truck driver Frank Cremanns’s telephone rang in Selfkant, he did not hesitate: “My dispatcher asked me whether I could drive to the flood region with one of our company’s earth movers. I took one look at my wife and she said: “Go, drive!” She knew immediately what I would do.” Frank Cremanns was deeply moved by what he saw when he arrived at the flood site. It was clear to him: “We will come back again. Nobody will be left in trouble here, we will keep helping!”

Trucks organised for transport

He has continued to provide his support to this day, two years after the catastrophe. It’s something that is urgently needed, explains Cremanns: “The people there still need help. Many houses are still wet, even now. It remains a state of emergency in 2023.” He began collecting donations two years ago. This included organising vehicles such as Sprinters, cars with drawbar trailers and even trucks for transport. He wrote to companies, made sure that they received donation receipts and networked with more and more volunteers. This also included a forwarding company in Würselen, where “the junior and senior bosses drove right along”. Cremanns himself is employed at Conrads Transporte in Übach-Palenberg and brought trees of life donated by a from a horticultural business in the neighbouring village to the Ahr valley using a low loader trailer. He also coordinated the transport of building materials such as cement, as well as USB drives. “I have driven so many things during this time, from squared timber to children’s toys.”

»I have driven so many things during this time, from squared timber to children’s toys.«

Frank Cremanns, truck driver helping in Ahrtal

Donations amounting to several hundred thousand euros

He maintained the contacts he made beyond July 2021. “There were more and more people who wanted to make donations, so every time, we organised the transport, or we drove there ourselves. There wasn’t time to think about it for ages, it was just: do it, do it, do it!” Cremanns estimates the value of the donations he has coordinated over the past two years to be several hundred thousand euros. He explains that, for anybody who would like to help in the Ahr valley now, the best things to donate are building materials, food and hygiene items. “We still need more of these things. Vouchers and cash donations are also always a big help.”

“It really bowls you over”

Frank Cremanns also donated something very personal: “In February 2022 my father died and left behind a large number of tools. The tools held a lot of memories, so it took a few months before my brother and I were ready to divide them up between us. But then I realised that I really don’t need so many things myself – so I loaded a drawbar trailer and drove down again myself with the tools. It was extremely emotional.” The images he remembers most from Ahrtal are those of the people who lost everything in the flood: “We were confronted with a massive amount of sorrow. Seeing it with your own eyes is much worse than on the news. It really bowls you over.” Helping others is a given for Cremanns. “I inherited that from my father. There have also been times in my life where I have urgently needed help and I was so grateful when I received it,” he explains.

»If somebody needs help, I’m there. The gratitude and heart-warming sensation you get back are reward enough for all the effort.«

Frank Cremanns, truck driver helping out in Ahrtal

Benefit convoy for critically ill children

Frank Cremanns has also been driving with the annual Euregio Benefit Convoy for a long time: this charity event in the Aachen region enables critically ill children to ride along in trucks and experience an unforgettable journey as a passenger. There is also a family festival with a wide variety of events as a framework programme. The aim is to make the children’s eyes light up and collect donations for associations in the region. Cremanns encouraged the coordinator to also include children from the Ahr valley. Requested and received: in 2023, a boy suffering from cancer and his brother from the flood region, among others, rode along in one of around 100 trucks. Cremanns still wants to make many more connections like this and create initiatives to alleviate the suffering in the Ahr valley and ensure the plight of the people there remains in the public eye. He also wants to continue helping himself: “If somebody needs help, I’m there. The gratitude and heart-warming sensation you get back are reward enough for all the effort.”

Voluntary commitment

With his commitment, Frank Cremanns is one professional driver among many who volunteer to help others. Christina von Haugwitz, project manager of the initiative PROFI – Pro-Fahrer-Image e. V. says: “There seems to be a mindset among professional drivers that leads them to drive aid deliveries to Ukraine in their spare time, to get involved in the Ahr Valley or to collect money for the cancer ward of the local hospital. They are sending a clear message against prejudices about their profession.” The PROFI association campaigns for more appreciation of truck drivers. Wolfgang Schiffers, organiser of the Euregio Benefit Convoy, for example, is a member of the association, as is Ulrike Müller, chairwoman of the motorists’ initiative Bewegen mit Herz e. V..

You can read more stories from and about truck drivers in our Logistics Hero section.
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