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Mom of 'hero' Boy Scout reflects on train derailment in Mendon 1 year later

Berken family
Posted at 7:00 AM, Jun 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-28 12:51:44-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It's been nearly one year since the Amtrak train crashed and derailed in Mendon, Missouri, killing three people and injuring others.

A group of Boy Scouts from Wisconsin was on that train, and they jumped in to help like it was second nature.

One mother, Sarah Berken, reminisced on how she felt when she heard the news about the train.

Her son, Isaac, was one of the Boy Scouts on it, returning home with his troop from Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.

"I very vividly remember the day, and the moments when we found out," Berken said. "Not being able to get a hold of him was a very tense moment, because we didn’t hear from him for about an hour."

Berken and other families waited anxiously for two days with other Boy Scout parents, all working to get their boys back to Appleton, Wisconsin.

"We kind of called it our war zone a little bit, like we were just determined to get to our boys," Berken said.

KSHB 41 Caroline's Hogan was working up in Green Bay when the incident happened. That's when she first talked to Berken and other parents. Her concern was palpable and called it "one of the worst days of her life."

When the boys finally returned home, into the arms of proud parents, they may have had some bumps and bruises, but they also came back with a tremendous sense of responsibility.

"I think all of the boys grew in terms of just their maturity, and probably some confidence in the fact that wow, 'We, we helped out and we did what we were able to do,'" Berken said.

It was a media frenzy and the boys were being called "heroes" for their work. They talked about it on national news, and downplayed their role.

"The heroes tag was something they certainly still... I don't think that they would be able to say, 'Gosh yeah we did anything extraordinary,' but they did, and they did a good job with it," Berken said.

One year later, most of the boys don't care to talk about it anymore, but Berken doesn't think her son is struggling.

The group went to counseling together and even had reunions months later, in a positive setting, to talk about their time at Philmont, not the crash.

20 years into the future, Berken wants Isaac to remember how courageous he was. She's making him a memory book.

"It's part of history, and yeah it's something that, you know, there were newspaper articles, there were obviously TV interviews, and we've tried to capture as much as we can and preserve as much as we can, cause that's part of Isaac's history," she said.