I had just gone to bed for the night when I heard the explosion. I bolted to my feet in time for the shockwave. The house shook. My wife woke up, confused.
I was stepping into our yard when the sirens sounded, surrounding from all directions. Down the street, someone wandered around with a flashlight. We did not see smoke right away. The circumstances created a terrific sense of being in a war zone. We went online and eventually discovered a house had exploded, less than three kilometres away. Our first thought was, of course, a Meth Lab, someone failing spectacularly at being Walter White. We quickly learned it had been the result of an accident and a subsequent gas explosion.
My wife has a friend who used to live one street over from the house that exploded, and she followed the chatter on the online scanner into the witching hours.
A story emerges over the days that follow:
Queens starts at Woodman Avenue, and runs one-way towards and through downtown, ending where it merges with Riverside Drive near the art gallery. Woodman Avenue is part of the residential spread that radiates around the Old East Village.
An allegedly intoxicated 23-year-old woman from out-of-town was speeding the wrong way down Queens. She smashed into the house at the t-bone. The house, thankfully, lacked occupants. By then people had already reported a car speeding the wrong way down a major one-way street, so the police were already heading in her general direction. The first medical emergency vehicles arrived in time to remove the injured driver from the car, before the gas line explosion destroyed it.
A nearby ring doorbell caught the precise moment, a fiery cloud rising over the fence of a yard populated by late-night hot-tubbers. They react as one might expect.
The fireball set to flame several nearby homes. Blocks of people had to evacuate.
The house at the epicenter resembles a bomb crater. At least two others homes have been destroyed beyond repair.
A handful of families have still not been able to return home. Donations have been collected, local bands held a fundraiser, and people have found ways to contribute. Walking through the East Village a day later, I saw a fragment of a cardboard box, posted on the door leading upstairs to an apartment:
Just knock to hot out! LOL
Hot Dogs $1:00
The Hot Dog Girl kept a tally, up to $52.00 at that point. Across the street, a dishevelled man sat beside his shopping cart and ate. I don't know if he bought it himself or if someone else made the purchase.
I had a box of items for the drop-off point. A woman sipping beer from a tall boy gave me directions. It sat at the back of a building undergoing gentrification. I passed from coffee shop through a store and then into renovations-in-progress, where I found the sorting pile.
A number of people required hospital care. Thankfully (and miraculously) no one has died. The driver faces multiple charges and has really messed up her young life, but at least she hasn't killed anyone.
Update: Recovery goes forward. And you can see the Hot Dog sign at 1:15.