I am a native of East Vandergrift and have been pushing very hard for rail safety along the Norfolk Southern tracks. I fear another derailment — there have been four in my lifetime — as my mother's home is just 20 yards from the tracks.
We need to be prepared for the next tragedy.
I have petitioned Norfolk Southern for funding for local EMS, but they refuse to answer my emails. I've asked about which chemicals move through my hometown. Shouldn't the railroad help East Vandergrift prepare?
Frighteningly, part of East Vandergrift lies on “the other side of the tracks” between the railroad and the Kiski River. Those residents couldn't even escape a derailment in which chlorine gas leaked or crude oil or ethanol caught fire.
Pennsylvania trains no longer haul just “happy freight” — steel coils, iron ore and coal. These “bomb trains” stampede past my mother's home.
She refuses to move, so I'm trying to make changes and educate others to motivate them to make changes.
I've also sought support from local EMS officials such as Dan Stevens with Westmoreland County Emergency Management and Antony Buyny, serving East Vandergrift and Vandergrift.
I find it sad and disturbing that Norfolk Southern has no desire to help a small town terrorized by its trains. It hides behind a cloak of relief that the recent Vandergrift derailment was contained and there was no loss of life.
Had that same train derailed just a half mile down the line in East Vandergrift, the story might have been one of mass casualties. Just because we've been lucky does not mean we're prepared.
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