The explosion last week that leveled part of a West Reading chocolate factory and claimed the lives of seven workers will not be easily forgotten, said Dr. Noahleen Betts, president of the Reading School Board.
“It’s going to be a sore, very sore, memory for a long time,” she said.
Betts spoke Thursday at a ceremony they called “a moment of solidarity” organized by school board members as a show of solidarity with and support for all those affected by the March 24 disaster at the R.M. Palmer Co. plant on South Second Avenue.
A candlelight vigil will be held Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the footbridge near the West Reading Fire Department in the 200 block of Playground Drive.
About 40 people joined members of the school board, representatives of West Reading borough council, West Reading Mayor Samantha Kaag, Reading Mayor Eddie Moran and state Rep. Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz for a brief ceremony on the campus of Reading Area Community College.
“We mourn together, we stand together, we grieve together,” Betts said, noting the impact of the tragedy on those who lost loved ones, friends and coworkers, and on the community at large.
Four of the seven people killed in the explosion were Reading residents: Diana M. Cedeno, 44; Domingo Cruz, 60; Judith Lopez-Moran, 55; and Xiorky D. Nunez, 30.
Betts asked for a moment of silence after the reading of their names and those of the other three victims: Susan H. Halvonik, 63, of Upper Providence Township, Montgomery County; Michael D. Breedy, 62, of Marion Township; and Amy S. Sandoe, 49, of Ephrata.
When the solemnities were completed, Kaag and Moran joined hands in a show of unity and led the assembly across the Penn Street bridge to the Palmer site in West Reading.
The participants followed, holding aloft signs saying “RSD Stands with Palmer” and “Red Knights Stand with Palmer.”
Across the Schuylkill River, many were overcome with emotion as they silently watched workers clearing the rubble where the factory’s Building 2 formerly stood.
“When removed from the site,” Betts said, “the enormity of the disaster is not as comprehensible.”
Before the bridge crossing, Leo Martinez, school board vice president, offered a prayer and words of spiritual comfort.
“Pray to God to bring healing to us and to our families,” he exhorted.
The Rev. Robert Brookins, senior pastor of Holy Trinity Church of God, Reading, also offered spiritual encouragement to the assembly.
Cepeda-Freytiz said the greater Reading community has a reputation for coming together in times of trouble.
“These are hard moments we are enduring,” Cepeda-Freytiz said, “but we’re all here in this together. Together we’re going to get through this. We’re going to make it out, and we’re going to provide support and help to all of those who have been greatly affected by this.”
She sees the Penn Street bridge as a symbol of the unity between the city and the borough across the river, the state representative said.
Remarks also were offered by school board members and other elected officials from both sides of the Schuylkill River.
“I really love seeing everyone come here together for the community,” Kaag said, noting her appreciation for all who organized the event and attended. “I have no words other than faith, love, grace.”
Source: Berkshire mont