It’s possible no family in Mosier was more affected in different ways by the June 3rd train derailment than Emily and Gus Reed and Charles Young.
Charles, a volunteer firefighter, received a text for a “Priority 1 Fire” and was the second responder on the scene. With 15-ft high flames, he and a fellow firefighter worked to stop the expansion of the fire, not put it out. “I’ve always worried about oil trains and feared a Quebec event (where 47 people died in 2013),” said Charles.
Less than a quarter-mile away, his eight-year old son Gus was at school when he heard a loud, grinding, metal sound. He noticed the school’s lawn sprinkler come on as he and his classmates were quickly evacuated. Emily, who serves as Mosier’s city council president, was in California on a business trip. She got home that evening and with the mayor of Mosier also away, Emily served as a media voice and public conscience for the community over the following days. “The issue of oil trains has gone from my head to my heart,” said Emily. “It has always been in this theoretically space and now it’s real.”
For both Emily and Charles, a better future in Mosier entails a safe community and strong school. While Emily grew up in The Dalles, Charles is Australian and they lived in Sydney prior to falling in love with Mosier. “By the end of our second week here, we knew more people in Mosier than we did in seven years in Sydney,” said Charles. They see Mosier’s charter school as key to the town’s future and despite a promise from Union Pacific to donate carpeting and a new gym floor to the school, Emily is concerned the derailment could have a larger impact on the school’s long-term success. “Everyone who attends here has a choice to go to another school.”
“This doesn’t help,” Emily said as she motioned toward the railroad tracks. “Kind of hurts the brand.”