London women still seeking closure months after Old East Village explosion destroyed home

For Jessica Jamie, whose house was one of the three demolished following the Old East Village (OEV) explosion, closure is not something that’s going to be within reach anytime soon.

Jamie spoke to Global News about how she’s doing six months after the explosion that woke up the city, reflecting on the night that took her home.

“It was alienating being ousted from the home I made and bizarre not being in the neighbourhood I chose to live in,” she said.

“Without those tangible items that we treasure, we think we need, we think we want, it was just a bizarre situation.”

On the night of Aug. 14, 2019, around 10:37 p.m., emergency crews were called to 450 Woodman Ave. near Queens Avenue after a person drove a vehicle into a house, striking a gas line.

Shortly after police arrived, a massive explosion erupted, causing severe damage to several residences. Roughly 100 homes were evacuated for the night, with all but a dozen cleared for re-entry the following evening.

In addition to the home that exploded, two others had to be demolished over the weekend, including Jamie’s. Neighbouring houses sustained varying degrees of damage, and several families are still displaced.

“That day was pretty scary; there was a lot going on in the 15 minutes that we had between the impact and the explosion,” she said.

“I definitely experienced some shock for a bit.”

Jamie said she, her husband, and two young kids are still putting their lives back together following the explosion.

“I had to set up a home of some sort for the children, mostly the four-year-old starting school.”

Two and half weeks after the explosion, Jamie said they were thankfully able to find a rental home close to where their old home used to be, ensuring their family was able to keep their route.

Although she said this experience is nowhere close to being over, she is grateful for the support from the community.

Following the explosion, local businesses and community members held fundraisers to support the families who were displaced and suffered property damage.

Last estimates from August had fundraising efforts topping the total at just over $150,000, with $50,000 already going to residents who were evacuated the night of the explosion.

Jamie said the money raised has really helped her family start to rebuild over these last few months. Following the explosion, she said, her family did not have beds for months and used blow-up mattresses.

“When you have nothing and you need everything, it can be a drain on your budget, so that donation money was amazing.”

Katie Sullivan, another OEV resident, said there is still a lot of work to do six months on, but added the community is standing with those still suffering the impacts.

Remembering the night of the explosion, Sullivan said it was the scariest thing she has ever expected.

“My home is an older home, so the windows were blown out by the percussion of the explosion, but nothing that could not be easily fixed,” she recalled.

As the community continues to rebuild, Sullivan hopes that people remember there are families still recovering.

“Everyone’s obviously happy and thankful to be alive and that there was not any further damage done and there were not any deaths, but there were people that were seriously injured, and there are people that will be displaced from their homes for a lot longer,” she said.

Seven people were hospitalized following the explosion, including one resident, two police officers, and four firefighters. One firefighter was in serious condition but has since returned home.

Twenty-three-year-old Daniella Alexandra Leis of Kitchener faces a dozen charges in relation to the blast, including eight impaired driving-related offences.

She is due back in court on February 19.

With Files from Matthew Trevithick Global News


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