West Reading officials honor 60+ first responders for R.M. Palmer explosion response

Officials in West Reading opened April’s Borough Council meeting Tuesday evening honoring 60+ first responders for their response and assistance during last month’s deadly explosion at the R.M. Palmer facility on South 2nd Ave.

The meeting, usually held at Borough Hall, was moved to the West Reading Fire Department to accommodate the large attendance of first responders and community members.

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West Reading Mayor Samantha Kaag and Borough Council President Ryan Lineaweaver presented commendations to members of law enforcement, fire departments, fire police, medical services, 911 operators and dispatchers, public works departments, search-and-rescue teams, hospital staff, municipal employees, county and state agencies, and other local agencies and organizations.

Following the presentations, Council President Lineaweaver noted that the West Reading Disaster Recovery Fund, setup by the Berks County Community Foundation and the United Way of Berks County, has reached nearly $700,000 in donations to support victims’ families and those displaced from their homes.

State Representative Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz also presented Citations to Council, Mayor, Borough staff, in addition to the police and fire departments. “It was heartwarming to see how everyone came together risking their lives, not thinking twice about jumping in and trying to save as many people as they could.”

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“I’m here today to thank you and present you with a citation on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the House of Representatives. I just wanted to give you some recognition and offer you a token of our appreciation as well. I know it’s a citation, it looks nice, but it doesn’t measure what each and every one of you did. Nights without sleeping and putting what happened before your own needs, I thank you from the bottom of the heart” said Representative Cepeda-Freytiz.

During public comment, West Reading community members expressed their gratitude towards first responders.

“This was personal experience for me being a 25 year office worker at Palmers and knowing someone that had been lost” said resident Karen Livingood. “It had been a very emotional weekend wondering what was going to happen, but I cannot express enough gratitude to the Borough residents because I went down to 2nd and Spruce. We went around door to door and got water, cases of water. We felt that we were doing something. They allowed us to move barricades. They allowed us to redirect traffic.”

Livingood continued, “but I can’t tell you how proud I am to be a West Redding resident. Jim and I have been here 52 years serving in all kinds of capacities. But this past March has been very moving to know how everybody pitched in. So thank you to all of you who’ve spent many, many more hours than I did. I’m very proud to be a West Reading.”

Mayor Kaag shared a few heartfelt words during the Mayor’s Report. “I am honored to be a part of such a beautiful borough where every single one of us pitched in and came together. Public Works literally gave shirts off their backs. The West Reading Fire Department worked tirelessly, as did the entire Police Department, with everyone stepping up to fill in wherever they could. For those affected directly and indirectly. For those that needed a solid rock in shaky times, for those that look for someone to bring comfort. Thank you to all the first responders, community members, residents and those involved in providing safety, guidance and care and compassion to those around you.”

Replying to Mayor Kaag, Council President Lineaweaver said, “thank you for your leadership during all of this. You’ve been a bedrock for our community, for all of us, that can’t be understated. Under any other circumstances, under previous mayors, this would have looked completely different and I’m very thankful that it was you.”

West Reading Fire Chief Chad Moyer also shared his sentiments, “I want to thank cCouncil and Borough Manager for all your support during the operations. I’ve lived in West Reading all my life and as a resident I couldn’t be prouder of the way everybody worked together.”

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