Editorial: Plum house explosion response shows value of good neighbors

Sometimes the people who live near us are just people who happen to occupy the same street.

We don’t open doors the way we once did. We don’t bring over a batch of cookies when someone moves in next door.

But bad things have a way of bringing out the best in people. The people of Plum are showing that now.

On Saturday, an explosion in the Rustic Ridge neighborhood destroyed three homes and rocked several more. It claimed the lives of five people.

“You’re numb right now. I didn’t know the families really well. I knew two of the families, people you wave to in your car. The one I knew through soccer. My kids played soccer,” said area resident Jason Decheck. “It’s just not going to be the same.”

It won’t be. But going forward, the people will know more than that they live in a nice neighborhood. They will know they live in a neighborhood where the people pull together in support of each other when the worst happens.

The people reacted with outreach. They opened their doors to give shelter. They offered their hands, searching for survivors. They were no longer a string of homes and families sharing
geography. They were a community, bound together in a pain and fear they shared.

And that community spread outward, with more people responding. Between a GoFundMe campaign established by Bryan Corbett on behalf of the Harrison and Kelly Smith family whose home was destroyed and one established by
Danielle DiVittorio for another family, more than $79,000 was raised by 4 p.m. Monday.

Meanwhile, more donations are being dropped off at other homes on the street, and Rustic Ridge HOA is collecting even more funds.

“It shows what people in Southwestern Pennsylvania do when there’s these type of incidents,” Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said. “People come together.”

These kind of disaster-related responses are nothing new. They pop up after fires, crashes and cancer diagnoses. What is remarkable is not just the speed and the scope.

It is the fact that the people most directly affected are at the forefront of the action. The people reaching out lifelines to their neighbors still live in homes nearby.

While there are no definitive answers about exactly what happened and why, they are not paralyzed by fear for themselves and their own needs. They are embodying the idea that “we are all in this together.”

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