PELLA, Iowa — “This hits home. These were co-workers. These were friends, those people I cared about.” Thursday began with death and darkness. Don French, a Pella Walmart employee of nearly five years was still in shock. “I’m trying to look for silver linings right now.”
On Friday, came a guiding light. “This is something I can’t handle alone. None of us can and thank God that we don’t have to,” said French. Nearly one hundred and fifty people gathered at a makeshift memorial at the Pella Walmart to honor the deaths of three after a pickup truck barreled through the front doors. Among those whose lives were taken, Ruth Jean DeJong, a 76 year old from Pella who was shopping when the pickup truck struck. “We were shocked this morning it was Jean. We were just really surprised. She’s just a sweet wonderful woman and luckily I feel she went quickly,” said friend Connie Isaac.
Another killed in the crash was 31 year old Pella Walmart employee Carrie Zugg. “She had a great sense of humor i could always count on anytime I had a conversation with her i was going to come out smiling,” said French. The third, 29 year old Pella Walmart employee Lindsey Rietveld. “She really impressed me with a genuine caring and friendliness the kind of thing you can tell is not a fake thing. you know she’s the real deal,” said French.
One of the injured included Ruth Jean Dejong’s husband, 77 year-old Robert DeJong. “He’s got a broken ankle to be fixed in the hospital,” said Isaac. The driver, 66 year old Dennis Mockenhaupt of Knoxville was treated and released from hospital care. French said, “It’s been a very sad, very emotional 24 hours.” A tragedy that has broken many hearts, “We’re going to miss you so much. we love you,”said the crowd of mourners. But not their spirit and hope for a better tomorrow as they all yelled, “Pella Strong, Pella Strong.”