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Community comes together to grieve huge loss


The Bucks County community came together on Sunday evening to mourn the victims of the July 15 flash floods in Upper Makefield and support the friends and family members suffering their tremendous loss.

Members of Bucks County, first responders, and the friends and families of the victims filled the Garden of Reflection. The sorrowful crowd used the garden as a place of healing to honor the seven victims and pray for the return of 9-month-old Conrad Sheils, who is still missing.

Family members, event leaders and officials were seated by the fragments of the World Trade Center during the ceremony; community members and friends filled the pathways standing and sitting in fold-up chairs, and first responders stood around the forecourt in honor of Linda and Enzo Depiero, Susan Barnhart, Yuko Love, Katheryn Seley, and Matilda and Conrad Sheils.

Ellen Saracini, chairman of 9-11 Memorial Garden of Reflection, started the vigil by welcoming everyone, offering condolences to the family and honoring the victims. “The garden has always been a place to heal, reflect and move forward, and we encourage you to use it,” she told the family.

Saracini then invited the Rev. Heeralal Mukesh Cheedie, pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Penndel, and the Rev. Doug Hoglund, pastor of Woodside Church in Yardley, who spoke to the families and offered prayers for the crowd to join in.

Then Saracini invited Thomas Cino, Upper Makefield supervisor and board chairman, and U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick to the podium for the torch lighting. Cino recognized first responders for their diligent work and the job they continue to do to find Conrad, then Fitzpatrick joined him to recite the names of the seven victims. First responders also lit torches dedicated to those who lost their lives as their names were called.

The Council Rock High School choir then sang “Danny Boy,” led by Corey Axler, as volunteers walked around the crowd to hand out candles.

Dahlia Galindez, the mother of Katie Seley and grandmother of Mattie and Conrad Sheils, came to the podium to speak. Galindez spoke of how the community has been caring for her and her family: “I am being lifted, I am being carried, and there are just angels among us everywhere,” she said. Galindez continued by thanking everyone for the event, remembering everyone who lost their life, and acknowledging the other survivors caught on Route 532, “I don’t know exactly who you are, but I am so, so glad you survived,” she said.

Galindez then shared the traumatic events that she went through on July 15. “It was all muddy, it was all rolling, there was nothing that we could do except go with it. How I did not get hit by one of those (debris) is an absolute miracle; I guess I get to stay here for a while — I kinda wanted to be with Katie and the children,” she shared. Galindez thanked her “angels” once again telling them she loved them all.

Afterward, Paul Sheils, father of Jim Sheils and grandfather of Mattie and Conrad, came to speak and thanked the intermediate, national and international community. “It’s a great consolation to our families to know that this tragedy has touched the hearts of people around the world and proved positive that there are still millions and millions of loving, careful, prayerful and compassionate people in this troubled world of ours,” he said.

Paul Sheils then thanked the first responders for their bravery and explained all their efforts to find Mattie and Conrad to the crowd. “No stone was left unturned to bring our special children home. This was not just another day at the office for these brave men and women. They were all treating the search as if they were looking for their own children — and it showed. In our view, these men and women are our heroes,” he said.

Dave Love, husband of Yuko Love, spoke briefly but passionately, telling his wife first in Japanese, “Yuko, I love you. I am so sorry,” before translating to English. He then turned to the first responders and bowed, thanking them in Japanese and then translating.

Volunteers handed out flowers for the families to place in front of the torches for their loved ones. The crowd was silent with sorrow watching the family members walk up to do so, as the emotional loss was more apparent than ever. First responders became emotional as the families came up, hugging and thanking them.

The first responders then paid their respects by placing their flowers before the community was invited up. As the public began to exit, they gave their condolences and prayers to the families who stayed to remember their loved ones a bit longer.

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