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Former evacuees join hundreds saying thanks at Sun Prairie Remembrance

SUN PRAIRIE (WKOW) — In the crowd of hundreds gathered around the Sun Prairie Fire Department Wednesday evening, were the staff and residents of the Sun Prairie Health Care Center.

Just a block away from where the explosion took place, residents like Jean Frei returned a year later to remember that day and show his appreciation to first responders who helped him.

“It was very scary,” he said. “When I looked out my window I could see the big flames up in the air.”

He said the explosion forced him and his fellow residents to evacuate the retirement center for five days. Caretaker Mona Onsager said the fire department, police, and Sun Prairie community were a vital part of that process, which is why a year later, a group from the center came back to say thanks.

“For everything they did last year during the explosion,” she said.

Alongside hundreds of others from around Sun Prairie, they marched down from the fire station to the place the Barr House once stood.

“Our community has certainly pulled together,” Frei said

Mary Jo Coppernoll, another staff member at the health center, said the crowd reminded her of the way the community rallied in the hours and days following the explosion. She recalled the care people she had never met took in making sure the elderly residents made it out safely.

“I look at photos from that day and I don’t even know all the people who helped us,” she said. “It just felt like an extension of our own facility.”

A year later, she said the ceremony proves a commitment to move Sun Prairie forward.

“Even through the worst events that we can learn from that, grow from that and be stronger,” she said.

Even as Sun Prairie recognized what they lost, Frei said the ceremony showed him how many still want to see everything rebuilt.

“The people that were in it will certainly never forget it,” he said.

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Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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