By Stephanie Heading
The derailment of a Norfolk Southern train in the rural town of East Palestine, Ohio has been in the public eye for several weeks. In the past week, Dr. John Heading, state director of Ohio Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (OSBDR) traveled to the crash site and met with Norfolk Southern executives to investigate how OSBDR could help residents impacted by the disaster.
According to Heading, one of the biggest concerns right now is the safety of the drinking water. “Norfolk Southern is providing free bottled water, air quality testing, and water well testing in the affected areas,” said Terry Richey, Norfolk Southern, director, legal claims. Speaking with residents of the area, Heading recognized that East Palestine residents are hoping for more. “I was floored at how uncertain and anxious the residents were,” said Heading. “They want to believe what they are being told, but they are hearing so many conflicting things that they do not know who to believe.”
“I was floored at how uncertain and anxious the residents were”
Heading discovered that the greatest unmet need is to help residents clean the inside of their houses, enabling them to go home and feel confident that it is as safe as it can be. The first OSBDR team deployed to East Palestine on Monday, February 20, working to bring Help, Hope, and Healing to those impacted. The team included nine members who traveled from Middletown, Fairborn, Pickerington, Heath, Elyria, and Cuyahoga Falls to East Palestine on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border.
“There is still a lot of assigning blame, but in talking with the Norfolk Southern executives, I indicated that we were there to help the residents and that we would leave it to others to resolve those issues,” said Heading. “There were several homes cleaned on the first day. With two of the homes, the railroad tracks went right through their backyards. You could stand on the tracks and look just a short distance to the left and see the crash site,” said Heading.
One resident the OSBDR team served was Matthew Day. He and his family live a few blocks from the derailment site, and he is burdened about his family’s future. “There’s no real answers related to long-term issues with the soil and water,” Day said with tears in his eyes.
“My family feels so blessed to have OSBDR serving my family. We are so grateful,” said Day. “We want to thank Southern Baptists for having such a dynamic ministry as Disaster Relief.”
“My family feels so blessed to have OSBDR serving my family. We are so grateful.”
The work OSBDR does for victims of disaster is always free to homeowners. “We never charge a dime, that is why support from churches, individuals and the Cooperative Program is so vital,” said Heading.
OSBDR is planning to deploy additional teams later this week to clean more homes. “Our goal is to bring real help to people in need. In doing so, we have the opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ where lasting hope and peace are found.”
To financially support OSBDR in the work in East Palestine, please visit https://www.scbo.org/dr.
Disaster Relief deployed to East Palestine on Monday, February 20, 2023
Cleaning home interiors was a high priority.