Bellevue Still Coping with Weekend Parade Accident

By Mark Geary, Reporter

People gather for the Bellevue Community Outreach Meeting Thursday, July 8, 2010, at Horizon Hall in Bellevue, Iowa. The meeting was held in response to the accident during their annual Fourth of July parade where one person was killed and dozens injured from two runway horses and a buggy. (AP Photo/Telegraph Herald, Jessica Reilly)

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By Becky Ogann

BELLEVUE – All is quiet on the main stretch of road through Bellevue, but memories of what happened there will remain with witnesses for years to come.

“I’ve got eight years of ambulance experience behind me and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Jim Evilsizer of Spragueville said. Evilsizer owns Jim’s Country Smokehouse which stands right along the parade route.

Community leaders organized a town hall meeting to help people cope with the accident. More than one-hundred people attended. Grief counselors, combined with religious and political leaders, moderated the forty-five minute gathering.

“I think the big thing right now is to have people talk and bring it out. Repression is never going to help,” Rev. Paul Gammelin, the pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Bellevue, said. “Hopefully, this is the beginning of the healing process for this community and for those individuals who were traumatized seeing some horrific sites.”

Many worry about the children who watched it all happen.

“A lot of them saw things they shouldn’t have seen. They shouldn’t have been subjected to that,” Evilsizer said.

Everyone knows the healing process will take time, but the mayor says he’s confident people will move forward.

“We’re doing something about it. We’re going to get through this. We’re starting to feel little more energy in our community,” mayor Virgil Murray said. “Sure, we have immediate, strong memories of the incident, but we can also remember many good things and project many, many more good things in the future.”

Once the spotlight fades away, community members hope this historic river town will once again be known for its beautiful view instead of the holiday tragedy.

A spokesperson from the police department says they’ve heard a lot of rumors and are still trying to investigate what caused the horses to run wild. Officials are still looking for video, pictures and eye witness accounts of the incident. Police plan to have a full report for the public by late next week or the following week

During the town hall meeting, other community members gathered at the wake for Janet Steines, the woman who lost her life. The mayor says the wake was scheduled after the meeting was scheduled. He says the family understands the situation and appreciates the community’s support.

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