'It was the loudest boom I ever heard'

East Village explosionMike ChiaravallotiYou can see here that part of Second Avenue was blocked off.

Manhattan’s East Village was rocked Thursday afternoon by an explosion that caused at least two buildings to collapse and a huge fire on Second Avenue between 7th Street and St. Marks Place.

Since I live just two and a half blocks away, I walked home a couple of hours after the explosion to assess the damage and check on my dog. Shell-shocked New Yorkers of all ages milled around Second Avenue, which was blocked off south of 10th Street. Many had seen the explosion first-hand.

There were “bloody people on the footpath,” according to my neighbour, David Pitches, who was walking near St. Marks when the explosion happened just after 3 p.m.

“There was debris blowing right across the street from the storefront,” Pitches told me. Moments after the explosion, he said, “the flames started to come out.” Within 10 minutes, he said, “There were smoke and flames going up the building.”

Another area resident remarked on how relentless the fire appeared to be. “It’s amazing how much water they could put on the fire and it keeps on burning,” John Leitner told me.

As I made my way to my apartment, I was struck by the fact that everybody on their mobile phones appeared to be talking about one thing: the explosion.

The smell of the smoke and the shock on everybody’s faces and the communal sadness reminded me of 9/11 — a day when I was in the city and it smelled like smoke and you could hear everybody on the streets having virtually the same conversation.

At one point, I could hear a young man in a nice button-down shirt talking to his friend on his mobile phone and saying he was just a few feet away from the explosion when it happened.

“It was the loudest boom I ever heard,” the man, who was 25 and didn’t want to share his name, told me after he got off the phone. “There was debris everywhere and people running and screaming.”

Photo courtesy of Michael Chiaravalloti.

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