On the evening of Tuesday, March 28th, the West Reading Borough Council convened to discuss the tragic explosion of the R.M. Palmer factory that occurred on the night of Friday, March 24.
Council members were visibly moved as they discussed the exemplary work of first responders who assisted at the scene, as well as for the members of the community who immediately rallied to help those in need.
Borough Council President Ryan Lineaweaver encouraged residents to utilize available mental health resources as they continue to process their grief, a sentiment echoed by meeting attendee Kate Mallow, the Director of Counseling at Safe Berks. He also expressed gratitude for the fact that the Berks County Community Foundation has, at this time, raised more than $300,000 to support those who have been affected by the tragedy.
When the floor was opened for public comment, a diverse group of attendees took the chance to share how they wanted to assist the community, from Crisis K9 Response handler Debbie Greusel (with her therapy dog, Piper), to local chaplains, mental health professionals, and delegates from local churches.
Two representatives from Senator Judy Schwank’s office attended the meeting to pledge the Senator’ continued financial support for the West Reading community, which will include funding for EMS services, expedited assistance for displaced employees, and additional help for small business owners.
Reading City Council President Donna Reed expressed sincere condolences from the City of Reading over the incident, and shared that Reading “was wrapping their arms in a hug” around the grieving West Reading community.
Mayor Samantha Kaag shared that a candlelight vigil to honor the victims of the explosion would take place at the foot bridge near the West Reading Fire Department on Friday, March 31, at 7:30pm.
“This will be a celebration of life,” said Mayor Kaag. “Let us grieve together as a community.” The Borough Council voted to extend the current Emergency Declaration until April 18th, which will ensure that the Borough will continue to receive additional state and federal funding, as well as to extend current road closures surrounding the explosion site.
The supportive, bipartisan community response was emotionally summed up by long-time West Reading resident James Rogers, who has called the Borough home for many decades: “I want to say thank you. It was 47 years ago on a Good Friday that there was a [multi-house] fire on Franklin Street…I saw then what the whole community can do together. I saw it then, and I saw it now, and that’s why I say…thank you.”