Watch this video and you will see a woman stranded on a fire escape and bystanders racing to help her. Then keep watching and you’ll see a man climbing up the fire escape and banging on windows. That’s off duty firefighter Mike Shepherd going flat out to try and find out if anyone is trapped inside. All of this took place yesterday after a gas explosion tore the front off 121 2nd Ave in the East Village and just seconds before a raging fire engulfed this building and 3 adjoining buildings. What you are seeing is New Yorkers responding with their trademark swiftness, practicality, empathy and compassion in disastrous situations helping each other out as best they can.
And of course New York’s bravest and finest were also soon on scene in their hundreds doing what they do everyday, go where others will not go to help New Yorkers and create order out of the chaos of fires and collapsing buildings. And they were also there helping all the people who were suddenly and drammatically dispossessed, hurt, grieving and frightened.
The loss of 3 historic landmarked buildings in this event is sad but not as awful of the loss of people’s lives, livelihood and homes. The final toll appears to be at this stage 25 injured overall, 4 of those injured critical and 2 young men missing, Nicholas Figuero and Mosises Ismael Locon Yac. It is still not know if anyone else has died within 119, 121 and 123 2nd Ave, the buildings that have collapsed from the fire that tore through them.
The site of the explosion and subsequent fire that took place on 2nd Ave yesterday is one of utter devastation with debris and belongings spread out onto the street is a giant heap of destroyed shops, homes and belongings. It will eventually get cleaned up, investigations will carried out, conclusions will be reached and future action plans put in place. But the human cost to the families of those who seem to have died, the memories of those who were on site when it all happened, will be lasting and deep. The only good thing that happened yesterday is further life affirming evidence that New Yorkers stand ready to help each other under all circumstances no matter how awful. That is a deep, abiding and wonderful truth, that is a truth to live by.