There are many reasons to love Lancaster County.
In addition to the beautiful farmland that highlights our heritage and reminds us of the importance of agriculture to our economy, Lancaster County is home to a generous, hardworking people that time and again showcase values worth having.
For example, nearly two weeks ago a powerful storm blew through Pennsylvania. Shortly after the weather event, it was determined that two tornadoes touched down. One twister made landfall near Wyalusing in Bradford County.
The other tornado hit eastern Lancaster County, leaving a quarter-mile-wide path of destruction in its wake. At about 7:38 p.m. on Wednesday, February 24, people living in the Salisbury Township area experienced a very real and dangerous weather event – an EF2 tornado.
With wind speeds in the 120 to 125 mph range, the tornado that touched down in our county damaged dozens of buildings over a 5-mile stretch. Homes and barns were severely damaged or destroyed. Cars, trees and rooftops were tossed about in the swirling winds. It was reported that grave markers dating back 300 years were toppled and outbuildings were smashed.
The damage was quick and severe.
An Amish schoolhouse was destroyed, with one person saying it, “looked like a bomb went off.” Several chicken houses containing 16,000 birds were flattened. Reports also say that cattle and other livestock became trapped in the rubble of collapsed barns.
Remarkably – and thankfully – it appears that no person got hurt or died from this tornado.
What did happen, though, was another great demonstration of who the people of Lancaster County really are – the common values we share in helping our neighbors in a time of need.
Shortly after the devastating twister hit, our emergency service personnel and first responders jumped in to meet the immediate needs of our communities. Like they do every day, the fine men and women who volunteer their time to assist in times of emergencies were there – helping.
One of the most inspirational stories that was shared was how, in a community where so many Plain Sect people live, did the Amish know that a tornado was coming? According to many people, it was because their “English” neighbors went to them when the tornado warnings were issued to tell them about the approaching storm.
What a powerful testament to our willingness to put others first.
At a time when so many believe we are growing apart as a society, this is just one incredible example of just how committed many in Lancaster County are to their neighbors, especially in a time of need.
It is estimated that the tornado that touched down just south of Amish Road and ended in a development on Rosehill Drive caused about $8 million in damage. Fortunately, it has taken only a few days to clean up the debris from the storm and needed repairs are underway to properties that were damaged.
“The outpouring of the community has been great,” a local fire chief said. He reported that people “jammed” into the fire company parking lot to drop off donated food and water.
And it should surprise no one that the day after the twister struck, hundreds from the Amish community gathered at a local fire station to, “get their cleanup and rebuilding assignments.” In addition to helping others, they were also already hard at work rebuilding their Amish schoolhouse, hoping to have it completed within a week.
While these situations can cause severe physical damage to property and they threaten the safety of people who were in the path of the tornado, they also allow for the greatness of our common good to shine through.
At a time when there is much disagreement in our culture and society, as well as in our politics, it is encouraging to see the spirit of giving and helping being demonstrated.
Certainly, this is not just a Lancaster County phenomenon.
I am sure that in other places in Pennsylvania and across our nation there are countless examples of people helping people. However, I have lived in Lancaster County all my life and am blessed to call it my home and I know that there is something special here.
Thank you to all who helped and for all those who are willing to assist their neighbors in the future.