Friday, December 22, 2017

Gratitude To You

By Cara Mitchell
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."
- Fred Rogers
This week, we’ve seen the very best of humanity when circumstances couldn’t have been more difficult.

On Monday morning, Dec. 18, an Amtrak passenger train derailed in DuPont, blocking all lanes of southbound Interstate 5. As the sound of sirens filled the air, our staff dropped what they were doing and rushed to the scene. While soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), firefighters, medics and other passersby treated and transported the injured, we set up detours and alternative routes with other local agencies to keep people moving. Nearby cities sprang into action, establishing places where family members could be comforted, supplied food and water to family gathering areas, and an area Incident Command Center.

Several people were hurt, and lives were lost. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this tragedy. Two of the victims, former co-workers Jim Hamre and Zack Willhoite, were familiar faces to us personally.

While work continued at the site of the derailment, it was a challenge for people to go about their daily lives, but it was made possible by communities who came together. Commuters and freight haulers were rerouted onto detours that added up to 75 miles, and at times, hours to their trips. Local cities and counties worked cooperatively to reroute traffic and change signal timing for the extra vehicles making their way through each town. Our partners at JBLM opened a section of Perimeter Road to the public for a local detour route.

Our dedicated maintenance crews worked tirelessly in rain, wind and near-freezing conditions to reopen southbound I-5 once they were cleared to begin road repairs. Shortly before 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 20, two lanes of southbound I-5 reopened to traffic. Four hours later, the final third southbound lane reopened along with the full I-5/Mounts Road interchange.

We are grateful for the work of our partners at the Washington State Patrol, Pierce County, JBLM, Amtrak, Sound Transit, the Department of Ecology, and numerous area police and fire departments and medics.

We would also would like to thank the cities, residents and businesses along the various detour routes in Mason, Kitsap, Thurston and Pierce counties. The communities of DuPont, Lakewood, Steilacoom, JBLM, Roy, Yelm, Tenino, McKenna, Port Orchard, Shelton, Belfair and everyone in-between, all worked to help travelers make it to their destinations.

While the traffic may be moving again and the wreckage removed, the images and actions that took place these past few days remain on our mind and in our hearts. We thank those affected for their patience, understanding and compassion, as we worked together to restore the region’s transportation system.

To the helpers – our sincerest thank you.


Gary said...

It was a sad thing to see...but being what it was, people needed help and they got the help needed quickly. There are good people everywhere. Everyone involved did their best and the road was opened up quickly as possible. I pray for the future that lessons will be learned and make things better so chances for this doesn't have a chance of happening again. My condolences to those who passed away and were injured, and their families.

Unknown said...

Thank YOU! I've always known the people of the PNW are an amazing lot. You have handled this tragedy with grace and dignity and, most importantly, compassion for the victims and their affected families. Not a common occurrence in any government organization. But people are people and the good ALWAYS comes out when we are confronted with awfulness. So, Merry Christmas to all of YOU at the WSDOT and thank YOU.

Melissa Lawrenz said...

I work at State Farm here in DuPont, I had the privilege of Thanking one of the Crane crews on the night of Wednesday 12/20/2017, the crane crew drove right by State Farm on Wilmington Dr as I was leaving, I pulled over with them as they stopped on the on ramp to NB I-5 and Thanked them for a Job Well done. As a commuter from the South Hill Puyallup area, the inconvenience of the I-5 closure did not bother me, When you look at the scope of what this tragedy was, there were 3 people were killed, many others were critically injured, the OUTSTANDING JOB that the crews did to reopen a major arterial was beyond words!! I did listen to a number of complainers at my job, what was troubling was the lack of compassion for the situation. It bothers me that so little people think about the lost lives and injured and were more concerned about not having time to do their hair and makeup.
When I saw on the news the Boy Scout Troop that held the candle light visual, I was overjoyed that there is still compassion in the young world.
I can not say it enough, THANK YOU AND BLESS YOU, To the EMS, First Responders, Crews, WSP, WSDOT, City of Dupont.... a little inconvenience goes a long way and I hope that you all know how much we appreciate the hard work you did and continue to do.

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