EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) — After the Feb. 3 train derailment displaced many living in East Palestine, one place responsible for caring for seniors welcomed its residents back home Monday.
One by one, residents of the Christian House assisted living and senior health center got off the bus to return home.
“It was great to see everybody again and get back home,” said Elva Petrik, a resident.
Petrik and 19 other residents were welcomed back with balloons, signs and plenty of hugs. They’d been staying at a hotel in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, for the past two weeks.
“Sunday, the sheriff came and said, ‘You have to go,'” said Karen Christian, co-owner of Christian House. “I’m like, ‘OK.’ So we packed and moved an assisted living in four hours.”
One resident said she was scared the weekend the derailment happened.
“It was very scary — very, very scary — and when we went out the door, all those fumes and everything were in the air,” says Gladys King. “They loaded us up on the vans right away and got us out of here right away.”
While officials from the village, Norfolk Southern and other agencies were cleaning up the scene and testing the air and water, the Christian House residents said things at the hotel were normal.
“We played bingo and did crafts,” said Kathleen Berresford, a resident. “They kept it homey.”
Although the emergency evacuation order was lifted last week, there was extensive cleaning that had to be on the interior and exterior of the building to make sure the residents were safe to come back.
“Our building was just incased with that black smoke and I was like, ‘The vents need cleaned, all the intakes need cleaned, the furnace screens need cleaned, the ducts need cleaned.’ That just takes time,” said Christian. “Rather than come back and have them work around us, we just stayed.”
The residents feel good about coming back.
“I feel great,” says Lillian Chick, a resident.
The entire staff at Christian House is happy to be back. The owner said Norfolk Southern paid for the entire hotel bill and cleaning services for the building.