Philadelphia residents pitch in to help train crash victims

While investigators pore over the evidence of the Amtrak train that crashed Tuesday, regional Red Cross officials and Philadelphia residents have turned out to help victims and their families by donating their time, effort and even technological know-how to the recovery effort. The NewsHour’s Stephen Fee reports on how the city is earning its nickname as the “City of Brotherly Love.”

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    A different look now at the accident in Philadelphia and how the citizens of the City of Brotherly Love are helping the victims however they can.

    The NewsHour's Stephen Fee has our story.


    A second day of cleanup and recovery here in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia, where Amtrak Train 188 derailed Tuesday night.

    While federal investigators continue to pore over the evidence, regional Red Cross officials, like Leo Pratte, have turned out to help victims and their families.

  • LEO PRATTE, American Red Cross:

    We're going to be working with the mental health status of all the families that are involved in the situation. And then that's where our disaster mental health teams will come into play and our spiritual care teams will come into play.


    And so of all our cameras go away, you guys stay here?


    Yes, sir.


    Pratte and his group of volunteers have set up a relief center at a Marriott hotel in downtown Philadelphia.


    The fact that it happened in this city and everybody steps up to the plate when something like this happens is one of the great things about the organization such as the Red Cross, is that it's driven by volunteers, it's ran by volunteers. And these are people who are doing their job every day living life normal, and then, when something like this happens, they drop everything.


    His team will be here as long as they're needed. Red Cross officials are often the first on the scene after tragedies like Tuesday's derailment. But here in the City of Brotherly Love, everyday residents are living up to that nickname as well, donating their time, effort, and even technological know-how to the recovery effort.

    When Patrick Murphy first learned about Tuesday's crash, he knew his company could help.

  • PATRICK MURPHY, Gridless Power:

    We happen to be right next door to where the Amtrak crash happened in Philadelphia.


    Murphy's company, called Gridless Power, makes compact battery packs, allowing first-responders to power their phones, laptops, and lights for potentially days on a single one-hour charge.


    So, it's a big battery pack that can be charged from whatever power's available. So it allows a responder to go into a disaster zone. You don't have to worry about watt outlets or plugs. You can put the system down, push the on button, and then you're good to go. You have got power wherever you need it.


    The company has provided these 50-pound battery packs to emergency officials in places like New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy and Nepal following the recent earthquakes.

    But Murphy says he never thought he'd be able to put them to good use so close to his hometown. They have offered four of their units to emergency officials here in Philly so far.


    There were no complaints from any of the guys here when we said, all right, Amtrak, a train just derailed. I know it's after work hours. This was 10:00, 10:30 at night. Let's just go see if we can help.


    Minister Joe Furjanic also felt compelled to lend a hand. His congregation, the Block Church, is just blocks away from where the train skidded off the tracks.

  • REV. JOE FURJANIC, Pastor, The Block Church:

    This is what we do. This is our — this is who we are. You know, we just — let's me a need. If there's a need, let's meet it.


    Furjanic, his wife, and some of the church's parishioners quickly got to the scene to pass out water bottles and clean up garbage. They haven't left since.


    Look, it wasn't even — it's not like a bunch of our people were in the train wreck. You know, it was people commuting and stuff like that, but just the energy and I think the passion of just our church, you know, here we are. Just, this is our block, this is our neighborhood.


    Furjanic says it's a small effort, but his church will be here for the rest of the week, helping out wherever they can.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I'm Stephen Fee at the site of the Amtrak crash in Philadelphia.

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