Wilkes-Barre was trending on Thursday. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, it means we earned a hashtag.
That means posts about our area were showing up with greater-than-average frequency on social media, especially Twitter, tagged #wilkesbarre and #wilkesbarretornado, for example. They forgot the Township part, but we can forgive that.
We were shocked, we were scared and we were hurting — and for one busy day in the spotlight, the nation shared our pain.
Many of you probably received messages of concern from friends and loved ones in other cities and states: “Saw you guys on the news this morning. Hope everyone is OK.”
By and large, we are.
It wasn’t a flood. No one lost their home. Six people were reported injured, thankfully none seriously. No one, miraculously, was killed.
But we won’t soon forget the EF2 tornado that ripped through the Arena Hub area Wednesday night.
First of all, it damaged and destroyed businesses that contribute to our community, businesses many people rely on for employment, entertainment, goods and services.
Buildings can be fixed, sure, at a cost. But for those who lived through the terrifying storm first hand, personal costs include fears about how long before they can return to work, as well as the toll Wednesday’s traumatic events will take on their sense of safety and security.
For many of us who weren’t at the scene, there is the trauma of seeing familiar places torn hideously asunder. It’s chilling to think how easily we could have been browsing those aisles or sitting at that table by the window with a loved one when the unthinkable happened with so little warning.
As many have said: If the tornado had blasted through earlier, when the stores and parking lots were still full, the toll would have been unimaginable. There but for the grace of God …
Grace was to be found in abundance in many places, however.
There was the selflessness of police, fire, EMTs and utility crews who rushed to the scene and worked long hours to keep people safe and maintain order amid much chaos.
There was the grace of organizations like Geisinger and the Red Cross, tending to the injured and offering comfort and support to others. Geisinger, for example, donated food to first responders and pledged a relief contribution to the Red Cross.
There was the professionalism of local, county and state government officials, who coordinated complex multi-agency responses and communicated efficiently with the media.
There was the diligence of journalists from every outlet, who worked hard to make sense of a terrible mess and keep the community informed — also with precious little sleep in many cases.
And there was the largely unsung heroism of private individuals who performed quiet acts of bravery and support for friend and stranger alike. One of them was Bruno Isles, a Panera Bread employee who helped shepherd others to the safety of a walk-in refrigerator as the twister smashed windows and sent the restaurant’s tables and chairs flying.
The Valley With a Heart has taken many a beating over the years, but its heart still beats.
We long to see the Arena Hub rebuilt like new, with workers back on the job and shoppers back in the stores. We are confident that will happen.
We love you, #wilkesbarre (Township). And we will get through this.
For more on Wednesday’s tornado, click here.