SUN PRAIRIE (WKOW) — The person at the helm of moving Sun Prairie forward after the July 10, 2018 explosion was Mayor Paul Esser.
Esser recalled he was in a city plan commission meeting at City Hall when the explosion happened.
“We heard the explosion. We just didn’t understand what it was. We just thought it was something with this [City Hall] building,” said Esser.
City Hall is two blocks from the explosion site. Mayor Esser said that’s a reflection of how powerful it was.
“The dust was filtering down off [City Hall] rafters, so it was really dramatic,” he said.
It wasn’t long before Mayor Esser learned the magnitude of what happened.
“You think of it as a once in a lifetime experience,” he said. “We all hope that’s what it was.”
In the days, weeks and months that would follow, Esser found himself with a responsibility much larger than being mayor. He was the one to reassure the community that things were under control.
One year later, the mayor said what makes him the most sad is thinking about the Barr family who lost a husband and father, Fire Captain Cory Barr, in the explosion. He also feels for those who were permanently displaced after the explosion.
“I can only react to that emotionally,” he said. “I think one year later we have moved beyond the intensity of the initial grief, so we’ve probably internalized it. I know it still makes me very sad.”
Esser recognizes, the explosion is something that’s been permanently etched, both physically and emotionally, in the city’s history.
“What I want people to focus on is the dedication of the people that evening that went in there and kept this community safe,” Esser said. “It was miraculous. We’re now 34,000 people, but on that night and in the days that followed, we acted like a community that was much smaller.”