WEIRTON - His voice was soft and his words punctuated by sobs, but blast victim George Mozingo wanted to say thank you to a community that has rallied around his devastated family.
"I want to thank everybody for their support," an emotional Mozingo said Monday from his hospital bed in Pittsburgh after family members used a FaceTime connection on an iPhone to show him the check for $10,000 they'd just accepted from the Steubenville, Weirton and Brooke County Fraternal Order of Police lodges. "And everybody looking out after my kids, I really appreciate everything. I hope everybody knows I appreciate this."
"We're sorry for your loss," Weirton Police Sgt. Eric Patterson, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 84, replied. "We know it's only money, but at least it will help with your family's immediate necessities."
MAKING A DIFFERENCE — Ernie Mozingo holds up an iPhone so his brother, George, can talk to area law enforcement officers who donated $10,000 to help his family recover from an Oct. 11 explosion that destroyed their home and claimed the life of 13-year-old Hannah Mozingo while his teenage son Tyler, who wasn’t home at the time of the blast, looks on. Representing the law enforcement community were, from left, Steubenville Patrolman Jim Marquis; Brooke County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Darren Hanna, who is partially obscured; Weirton Police Sgt. Eric Patterson and Detective Rick Grishkevich. The funds were donated by Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1 in Steubenville, Lodge 84 in Weirton and Lodge 101 in Brooke County. -- Linda Harris
Mozingo, his wife Tracy and teenage daughter Haley were seriously injured and his 13-year-old daughter, Hannah, killed when an explosion leveled the family's home on Eldersville Road Oct. 11. The couple's son, Tyler, wasn't home at the time of the blast, which could be felt miles away.
In the days since the tragedy there has been an outpouring of support from the community, with individuals and organizations throughout the area donating thousands of dollars and organizing fundraisers to help the devastated family rebuild their lives.
To that end, FOP Lodges No. 1 in Steubenville, No. 84 in Weirton and No. 101 in Brooke County joined forces to make the combined $10,000 donation to the family. They're also sponsoring a special tag day Nov. 3 at the Weirton Wal-Mart, with all donations going to the Mozingo family.
"This family, it's probably been the darkest part of their life," Patterson said, who credited the Steubenville squad with spearheading the donation. "We all go through life every day and see faces and don't even pay attention. Then something of this magnitude happens, and we see the faces coming out to help. It just reminds you that anytime, any day it could have happened to any of us."
Steubenville Patrolman Jim Marquis, president of FOP Lodge 1, said officers from his department "had started talking among themselves" early on about finding a way to help the Mozingo family.
George Mozingo works for TEAM Family of Dealerships in Steubenville, and Marquis said owners Geary and Mark Teramana have always been supportive of them and their community. "They've never turned us down" when we've needed something, Marquis said. "So (this is our chance) to help one of their employees."
"It's a tragedy," he added. "I couldn't imagine what they're going through, to end up with nothing one day and lose a family member. You just can't imagine (what that's like)."
Brooke County Sheriff Deputy Sgt. Darren Hanna said it's a tight-knit community, "so when something like this happens it touches all of us."
"It's just our way of helping out," said Hanna, acting president of Lodge 101, who pointed out those unable to take part in the Nov. 3 Tag Day may make donations directly to the Mozingo Family Fund set up at Progressive Bank, 744 Charles St., Wellsburg, 26070.
George Mozingo's brother, Ernie, said the family is deeply appreciative of all that the community has done for them.
"My brother's definitely been a pillar of the community and would have done the same for everybody else," Ernie Mozingo said, pointing out they'd been using FaceTime to keep his brother's family in touch with those efforts while they recuperate. "George and Tracy always helped everybody, but they're astonished at everything people are doing for them now."
Patterson, meanwhile, said the fundraiser is a chance to show the kind of heart police officers have." While nothing can heal the family's wounds, "at least it can help the family take care of their immediate incidental needs," Patterson said.
"This family, this has probably been the darkest part of their life," he added. "We all go through life everyday and see faces and don't even pay attention. Then something of this magnitude happens, and we see all the faces coming out to help. It just reminds you that anytime, any day it could have happened to any of us."
(Harris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)