‘Absolute heroes:’ Sun Prairie community wraps arms around 1st responders after deadly explosion

SUN PRAIRIE -- Whether it's passing out care packages or meals, the people of Sun Prairie are trying to find any possible way to express their gratitude to the first responders helping out in the aftermath of a deadly explosion Tuesday evening, July 10. Veteran firefighter and business owner, Captain Cory Barr, was killed in the blast.

"I witnessed him running from building to building -- basically clearing people out," said Jerimiah Mankowski.

Mankowski and his family lived above one of the restaurants wiped out by the explosion.

"They risked their lives to save all these families," said Mankowski.

Mankowski lost everything, yet he's still found a way to donate to the GoFundMe.com account for Barr's family. He said he's encouraging others to do the same.

"There's really not much more I can say other than they are absolute heroes," said Mankowski.

New Perspective Senior Living, just down the road, was evacuated moments after the blast.

New Perspective Senior Living

"We're fortunate and grateful for the help we received from EMS volunteers [and] team members," said Sarah Searles, executive director.

All residents had returned to the facility by Thursday, July 12. They sent out an open invitation to all first responders.

"They don't get the thanks they deserve sometimes and this is another way for us to give back to them and pay it forward," said Patrick Becker, food and beverage director at the New Perspective Senior Living in Sun Prairie.

Even the youngest members of the community found a way to say 'thank you' with help from their teacher.

"I just wanted to teach the kids that it's more important in life to do things for others than to think about yourself," said Katie Boos, teacher.

That's the same lesson Captain Cory Barr left behind.