Our children will shape the future of Chester. As adults, we must give them all the love and attention possible to make sure they have the best chance to contribute to creating the city they desire to live, work and raise their families. 

The heartbreaking incident that took two precious young lives on the railroad tracks has brought great sorrow to the entire city. Mayor Kirkland, Councilman Morgan and I gathered near the site to gather details from the Pennsylvania State Police. We were all left speechless. I circled around the yellow tape to join the gathering of family and friends and spoke briefly with one of the victim’s father and a few others on site. No words can express enough condolence or comfort in moments as tragic as this. 

Earlier in the day I participated in the Walk for Autism held at the soccer stadium which was an occasion for community members and partners to collectively wrap our arms around the children living with autism and the families that care for them demonstrating the love and commitment Chester has in support of those families.

I was attending the Boys and Girls Club of Chester’s annual fundraising event when I received the call of the fatalities on the railroad tracks. The Boys and Girls Club is that safe haven many children depend on to join with their peers in a safe and nurturing environment. Being among so many who support and sustain the Boys and Girls Club at the fundraiser proves the value the Boys and Girls Club brings to Chester. Leaving there to travel across the city for such a sad and tragic occasion was almost emotionally unbearable. And then to return to the fundraiser literally took me on an emotional roller coaster ride of highs and lows all occurring in just half a day. 

I arrived back at the Boys and Girls Club right at the end of the dinner portion and the beginning of the keynote speaker and award ceremony. It was during that time that one presenter mentioned that Chester, a city of nearly 35,000 people, has close to 10,000 citizens under 18 years of age making it one of the youngest cities in the state of Pennsylvania. He also mentioned that during the several decades of Chester’s economic decline, it has also faced a tremendous loss of youth serving agencies with the Boys and Girls club being the last remaining brick and mortar provider left. His dream is to create a second Boys and Girls club on the other side of town – the side of town where the train tragedy occurred. 

As I met with the crowd gathered at the Rev. Martin Luther King bust that sits right below where the train tragedy occurred, I couldn’t help but to look around Memorial Park and notice how beautiful and vast the park is but also how little there is of playground equipment and activities for youth to enjoy. 

As a city official, I’m more committed than ever to create spaces where children will prefer to play in a park or playground over playing on the railroad tracks. Admittedly, it’s a lot more difficult to access the train tracks than when I was a child who grew up near those very same railroad track, but it’s nearly impossible for a curious child not to find a way past the fences and gates meant to protect them from yesterday’s tragedy. 

The city is in a state of deep sorrow right now. We pray for the families during this difficult time and, as a community, we will commit to creating safe environments and engaging programs to reduce the temptation to find recreation in unsafe activities. This has to be the vision for all of us in the City of Chester.