Sun Prairie holds ceremony to look back one year after deadly explosion

Everyone in Sun Prairie has a story about July 10, 2018.

The historical museum still hasn’t opened since the explosion last year.

“It’s a very personal event,” said Helen Wirka, the museum’s director. “The July 10 explosion was a very personal event.”

That’s why she and her staff are gathering those personal experiences, firsthand accounts from people such as Alder Steve Stocker, who had just finished a committee meeting when it happened.

“A loud boom was heard and the upstairs floor of the council chambers rocked and the beams swayed,” Stocker read from his entry.

Now the fact that it is a year later is somewhat hard to believe for much of the community.

That’s why they came together for a ceremony to look back, starting at the fire house and ending where it began at the Barr House site.

Sun Prairie’s Mayor Paul Esser begins addressing crowd at memorial ceremony. “(July 10, 2018) is a story of heroism, it’s a story of loss, and it’s a story of our community coming together.” #SunPrairieStronger #SunPrairie #News3Now

— Amy Reid (@amyreidreports) July 10, 2019

“I come here with a heavy heart, and I bet others of you feel the same way,” said Mayor Paul Esser during the ceremony. “The pain of the losses from last year are still sharp in our memories.”

The Sun Prairie Fire Department mourned Capt. Cory Barr, not just for the hole left in the department, but in the city and community.

“He loved Sun Prairie,” said Sun Prairie fire Chief Chris Garrison. “He was born and raised here, and we lost that amazing man, and for this we were angry. We were hurt, and we were upset. And we fought with those emotions for a long time.”

A surprise during the ceremony. The restored Barr House sign one year later. #SunPrairieStronger #News3Now

— Amy Reid (@amyreidreports) July 11, 2019

Abby Barr felt that too. She thanked the whole community for standing behind her, and thanked her husband for what he did and continues to do for her and the girls.

“Because of you I have learned what it means to be selfless, brave, strong, courageous, and how to love unconditionally,” she said about her late husband. “And these are all things I will be instilling in our two beautiful girls.”

The Sun Prairie Historical Museum is putting together an exhibit on the day, but they are still looking for contributions, especially firsthand accounts.

Staff will be collecting them Sunday, when they will finally be able to open again.

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