David Trinko: Wapakoneta family sees power of community after Amtrak tragedy

·2 min read

Jul. 3—WAPAKONETA — The Steinke family, of Wapakoneta, headed out West for a memorable railroad trip across the great expanse.

Being aboard the Amtrak train that tragically struck a dump truck Monday, killing four people near Mendon, Missouri, isn't what the family will remember most, though. They'll remember the kindness of strangers during a time of need.

"The Steinke family's only notable story for the news is that of the amazing people that exist in this world, the goodness of God above and the gratitude they have for the opportunity of another day," Dr. Joshua Steinke, of Wapakoneta, wrote on Facebook.

Sixteen members of the family, including Steinke's parents, aunts and uncles, were on their way back from a 10-day train trip. Fourteen of them returned to Wapakoneta safely early Thursday morning, with the remaining two suffering relatively minor injuries and expected home in the coming days.

"While battered and brusied, they are extremely thankful to be alive and with their families," Steinke wrote.

The family declined to be interviewed but allowed me to share their story told in the Facebook post. While most of the national stories have been about the accident and how it happened, the family members were amazed by the response from rural Mendon, which had a population of 163 people in 2020. That's a place 15 people smaller than tiny St. John's, located near Wapakoneta in Auglaize County.

It seemed like every one of those people must've helped in some way after the train crash.

"Moments after the crash occurred hundreds of local people, farmers, families, first responders and strangers fled what they were doing to help every passenger aboard," Steinke wrote. "Using their personal vehicles and resources they transported, sheltered, fed and tended to victims. Passengers aboard the train and Amtrak employees who were strangers at one moment, immediately became lifelines and helping hands the next."

The help didn't end in the immediate aftermath of the accident, either. Doctors, nurses and their families helped connect families with transportation and cell phones to contact loved ones.

"Once at the several different hospitals that victims were transported to, doctors and nurses and even doctor's spouses used their personal resources to help in every possible way — giving rides, buying clothing, comforting and connecting with the battered victims," Steinke wrote.

The Steinke family will continue to heal and appreciated the prayers and well-wishes they've received, with Steinke writing, "It is overwhelmingly amazing. It takes a village, and prayer is certainly powerful."

The family will never forget the hospitality and care received from total strangers when they needed it most.

"While a tragedy, this is an incredible story of small town people helping small town people," Steinke wrote. "Surely, that is the most newsworthy thing there is."

David Trinko is editor of The Lima News. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.