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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Resident offers first-person account

Monday, September 12, 2005

My aunt and uncle had come over for coffee. My uncle was fixing my mailbox when the explosion occured. We, along with Gertie Mathis, Rick Hester, Judy Black, arrived before any emergency vehicles.

I had some info about the explosion that the reporter might not have gotten. If she already has it, just ignore the email.

The explosion was so loud that we thought a bomb had exploded in our yard. My aunt and I rushed outside to see if my uncle was okay. We saw what seemed to be stuff flying out of the tree just beyond the far side of my backyard and rushed in that direction. Four other neighbors were running toward the site and then we all just stood in amazement for a few seconds. There should be a house across that street. There was a pile of stuff with sparks. At first I thought someone tore down that house and they were blowing up the rest of it. It was level. Not one timber was standing. Nothing. It gave me the strangest feeling. It was like that eerie creepy chill when you realize you are lost and you're going the wrong direction because nothing looks familiar.

And it was quiet. There had been this huge boom that seemed to share the whole earth and then it was quiet. As we ran to the site, stuff seemed to be puffing into the air, somewhat like tufts of cotton or fall leaves spiraling up from a fire.

There was rubble and insulation. Just stuff, unrecognizable stuff. Then we seemed to hear it at once. Someone was calling for help. The fire was starting. I think it was Gertie that said "It's Mr. Miller." Rick Hester took off running down the hill toward the sound. John Clark disappeared over the hill following Rick. The inferno had not started yet and you could hear that helpless cry for help. It seemed as though they were gone for a long time. Judy Black, Rick's girlfriend, was wearing her barefeet sore worrying about Rick. I was worrying about my uncle trying to help when he has his own health problems. We were all fearing it was taking too long to get Mr. Miller out of there. Finally, two police cars arrived and we yelled to them that someone was trapped. One officer grabbed his phone to call and the other started over the hill. The flames were becoming intense. The fire was so hot so fast. Rick had reached Mr. Miller and had gotten hold of him but could not free him from the stack of debris on his legs.The fire was suddenly so intense. The men had no hoses and no protective gear. Some man asked me to turn on a hose but it wasn't my yard and I could not see one anywhere. We were in King's yard but they were still shaking inside their home.

We could hear the sirens coming. John and a couple of other men started clearing debris from the street to clear it for the emergency vehicles. The first firetruck arrived and directed the hoses to where Mr. Miller was trapped at the edge of what had been his basement. Rick and John then went back to stand with the rest of us spectators. The fire reached the back of a red pickup. Everyone was saying, "They need to get those vehicles out of there." No one had the keyes-there was nothing to use for a tow. Jackson Township arrived from the south and directed a hose onto the truck. Dean's house next door had windows popping and the siding was curling like potato chips.

I saw the reporter arrive, take pictures, and talk to the Kings. She has the story from that point. Neither Rick nor John or anyone else who helped would want to make a big deal out of it but I thought at least a mention would be nice. Rick Hester rushing to help a neighbor and John Clark trying to help him seems like heroes to me.

Had the men not found Mr. Miller while it was still quiet, I don't think anyone could have heard him callling. Once the flames, sirens, hoses, crowds and popping electrical wires added to the noise, Mr. Miller would never have been able to yell loud enough for anyone to hear him.

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