by Ed Pawlowski, Mayor - City of Allentown
There is a saying, "The stars are constantly shining but often we do not see them until the dark hours."
The tragedy of February 9 affected all in Allentown in different ways, yet through the darkness our community has and is shining. In the hours and days since this tragedy I am continually reminded that we have a very caring and deeply involved community. And I was heartened, but not surprised, to hear heroic stories of residents helping residents.
On behalf of our city, I want to thank all the community organizations, businesses, and residents who responded and reached out to help, including those who rushed to the scene immediately in those early hours and those who continue to help today. Your efforts are greatly appreciated and are another example that Allentonians have a great sense of community and deep caring for their fellow neighbors and friends.
Thank you to the first responders from the city and elsewhere. Their efforts prevented further loss of life and property. Thank you to the numerous churches and Jewish congregations who immediately reached out opening their doors and hearts to a community in need.
The hearts and prayers of our entire city go out to the family and friends of the five people who lost their lives in this tragedy. They are experiencing the kind of pain that few of us have ever known. The tragic loss of a loved one is extremely difficult to bear. I ask that our community continue to remember them in your prayers, thoughts and acts of kindness in the weeks and months ahead.
We also have a group of people who survived the horror of that night, but lost their homes, their possessions and many memories in the fire. Thank you to the myriad of disaster and social service agencies, relatives and friends, who reached out in their time of need. Their lives have been turned upside down and are traveling a very difficult road. I am sure it will be sometime before they will ever consider their lives to be normal again. Let us as a community continue to support and help these families rebuild their lives.
We also had dozens of other members of the community whose homes sustained minor damage and at the very least are taking time to make repairs or deal with insurance companies and contractors and others.
There are a number of businesses or organizations that are accepting monetary and other donations for the victims of this tragedy. If you would like to further help and support the victims of last week's tragedy go to the city's website at www.allentownpa.gov for links to those who are accepting donations for those affected by the blast.
Finally we have many in the community who fear that the next natural gas accident could happen to them. I fully understand their concern and I promise you I am pressing UGI to thoroughly inspect all of its remaining gas lines in the city and immediately replace its aging infrastructure as to avoid any tragedies like this in the future. It is my hope that this incident will prompt the entire industry and our nation's leaders to take a comprehensive look at the aging natural gas infrastructure affecting cities across the country and seriously address this issue.
Though as a city and community we have suffered much these last few days, it is during times like these that we must all pull together and become stronger. When a tree's life is threatened, stressed by the elements of fire, drought, or other calamity, it twists beneath its bark to reinforce and make itself stronger. On the surface, this new inner strength may not be visible, for the bark often continues to give the same vertical appearance. Only when the exterior is stripped away, or when the tree is cut down, are its inner struggles revealed.
God can use the circumstances of last Wednesday night and the grief that has followed to strengthen us in ways that are not visible to the world around us. Allentown is a resilient community. We have bounced back from similar tragedies and we will bounce back from this one as well. Our neighborhoods represent the vitality of our city. It will take time, but this neighborhood will recover. That's what we do across America when the going gets tough and that's what we do in Allentown.