Ever since I've known him, Tom Loftus, the former speaker of the Assembly and ambassador to Norway, hasn't been able to say enough about Sun Prairie, the city he represented in the Legislature for seven terms.
He always insists that the city, now home to more than 33,000 people, has always possessed a special spirit that brings out the best in people.
This week we saw exactly what Loftus meant when Madison's neighbor to the northeast suffered an gas explosion that not only destroyed several downtown buildings and businesses, but took the life of a beloved community leader, businessman and Fire Capt. Cory Barr.
Both the city's fire and police chiefs remarked about the incredible response to the disaster that struck Tuesday evening and how much it helped their departments do their jobs.
People from all walks of life chipped in to bring food, drinks and blankets to the dozens of people who were suddenly forced from their homes. It was as if everyone dropped what they were doing and headed downtown to offer their help. Officials of both the Red Cross and Salvation Army, who also rushed to the scene, commented about the community's incredible outpouring of support.
Unfortunately, the work to get downtown Sun Prairie back to normal has just begun. Because of the gas explosion's massive force, more buildings need to be examined to ensure they're safe for occupancy and, of course, a massive cleanup of broken glass, brick and building fragments is still ahead.
The Bank of Sun Prairie has pitched in to create a disaster relief loan program for people with damaged homes and businesses. It asks folks impacted by the explosion to visit any bank location in the city.
The church that the Barr family attends has started a GoFundMe account to help Cory Barr's widow and the couple's 3-year-old twin daughters. You can contribute by going to www.gofundme.com/benefit-for-the-family-of-Cory-Barr. There are other GoFundMe accounts to help others who were injured. You can find more by going to go.madison.com/GoFundMe.
You can also help by making donations to the Salvation Army and Red Cross to help with their expenses in dealing with the disaster.
The people of Sun Prairie are doing their part. We all ought to help out as best we can too.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.
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