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The Community's Response To A Family's Setback Is Described As
'Powerful... Really Incredible'
Story by Duane Good, Photos by Sara Feidt;
used by permission of the Feidt Family

The area's Amish residents and their 'English' neighbors work together during the September barn raising at the Feidt farm.

For just a few minutes, it was a negative experience.

After that, it was totally positive.

The collective arms of the Sentinel’s coverage area reached out to David and Teresa Feidt and their children – Jordan, Nicholas and Sara – even as an accidental fire was leveling their milking barn the afternoon of Sept. 16.

Within a week, the better part of a new barn had risen from the debris of the old one. Within minutes after the fire began, the Feidt family experience the love and support of a community willing to help them out in whatever way it could.

Amish, English, farmers and other neighbors, family, friends and just plain folks helped the family go forward from the setback. For the Feidts, it was a sweet but strong reminder that sometimes, we all need to lean on others.

“There is no such thing as being truly self-reliant; at no point are you without need of God, family, friends and neighbors,’’ Teresa Feidt said in a recent interview. “Without a community of caring people, we just would have felt burdened.”

An explosion. Sept. 16 began as a typical busy day of work at Pleasant Hill Farms on Botts Road in Washington Twp. Just before noon, Teresa had just asked Jordan to unload supplies from her vehicle and was walking away to feed a calf when she heard a scream.

‘‘I ran back; you could tell there had been an explosion,’’ she said. (According to an insurance investigation, an aerosol can beside the hot water heater was being pushed away from the heater by foot when some spray was released by accident.)

While Jordan worked to herd dairy cows out of the building, Teresa called 911, then asked Sara “to call everyone we know.

“My husband was at an auction in Middleburg. I called him, he called everybody he knew,” Teresa said.

Elizabethville’s Reliance Hose Co. received the first dispatch at 12:05 p.m. and the first volunteers arrived at 12:13 p.m., according to Fire Chief Russell Walborn Jr. Eventually, virtually all of northern Dauphin County’s firefighting forces had units from the scene, supplemented by crews from the Dauphin and Harrisburg areas as well.


With many hands on deck, it takes about two work days for the majority of the rebuilding to be completed.

They weren’t the only ones that responded. According to Teresa, while it’s difficult to know the exact time frame, she said everyone from local Amish residents to neighbors to fellow farmers to  veterinarians and electricians were at the scene in less than 45 minutes, possibly even sooner than that.

“Someone came over and said, ‘I’m your neighbor; tell me what to do,’ The Amish were out in the field, loading cows. We had cows at a neighboring barn by 5 p.m.,’’ Teresa said.

With the extra hands – and a skid loader – the Feidts were able to remove a final few of the more stubborn cows from the barn. One of them was injured in the process and had to be put down, but no livestock was lost due to the flames, Teresa stated. (Jordan sustained minor burns.)

According to Walborn, the fire was under control by 3:30 p.m. He said the biggest challenge was addressing the large quantity of hay packed in the barn. Otherwise, there were no real issues.

“Everyone did an excellent job working together, even the departments we don’t normally run with,’’ the fire chief said.

According to Teresa, the firefighters’ teamwork saved the barn’s foundation from serious damage, which was essential for the rebuild to progress smoothly. She also praised the concern they showed the family while fighting the fire.

‘‘From the moment they came, it felt like everything was going to be okay,” she said. ‘‘They took care of us, got the cat out, were very considerate in their concern for us. It felt as if the joy was for them to serve us, when it should have been completely the opposite.’’

“Something bigger than us.” As a farm family, the Feidts are used to handling most chores and challenges on their own. They realized that going forward from the fire would take extra help.

“I think it was the next morning that the Amish were here; they wanted to help us clean up right away,’’ Teresa said. “David said to one man, ‘What do I do? He knew this was something bigger than us.’’

The Feidts were put in contact with people in the Amish community who could help. By the weekend, these individuals –with help from others – had assisted with pre-rebuild cleanup. By Monday morning (Sept. 22), they were more than ready to go.

“Basically by Tuesday at the end of the work day it was done. They did mostly siding by Wednesday,’’ Teresa said.

Although the Feidts had had Amish builders prepare a structure for them years ago, their efforts in raising the new barn were a wonderful sight to see.

“We never saw anything of that magnitude,’’ Teresa stated. “If you look at the video that was taken, there is a point where different groups are working over the entire area.

“At one point, you see a man throwing a ‘2 by 4’ to a man at the peak of the rafters. He grabbed it and nailed it right in,” she added. “There were two other gentlemen who ran up with a piece of tin. It was getting screwed in as soon as those guys could get it up to them.’’

“Everybody knew what to do. I told one man that when you watch the video, all you hear is the sounds of hammers, screwdrivers and power tools. It was just an incredible experience,’’ she said.

Better yet, the Amish were happy to have the local “English” (non-Amish) working alongside of them. Teresa said family, friends and neighbors joined the work crew as their schedules allowed. For Tuesday’s dinner, 45 people were on hand.

“Our ‘English’ just loved the experience. (Jordan) and my nephews were coming over, sharing stories; they were enjoying every minute of it,’’ she said. ‘‘It was a beautiful site; everyone was completely in sync and the Amish were enjoying it as much as everyone else.’’

Renewed respect. The Amish who helped the Feidts wanted no compensation, no words of gratitude and no individual publicity for their efforts, according to Teresa.

“They don’t even want to hear about it. That’s how they were raised and that’s what they believe in; some had fires of their own and know what it’s like,’’ she said.

At a time when the Amish have been subjected to negative media attention, the Feidts have a renewed respect for these fellow residents of the area, according to Teresa.

“It makes you want to be extra careful when you need to pass a buggy on the road; you slow down more, out of respect,” she said.

Renewal and respect are among the words that the Feidts would say characterize their experience.

‘‘My kids have mentioned how so many good things came out of the whole week,’’ Teresa said. “Many different relationships are stronger, with people reconnecting. It was a reconnecting with God, family, friends and community.

“It was just powerful, really incredible,” she said.

Except for the first few moments immediately after the fire broke out, Teresa said it never seemed as if a crisis mode was present.

There may have been a reason for that as well.

“A church group came over to give us a card and told us that they had been praying for us,’’ Teresa said. “I said, ‘We felt that, absolutely all week.’

‘‘We didn’t fell like there was a burden on us. We weren’t getting much sleep, but it didn’t feel that way,’’ she added. “People were taking care of us; the burden was not on us.”

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