It was a night seemingly like any other.
Jessica Leeming Jaime returned to her home at 452 Woodman Ave. last Wednesday around 10:30 p.m. Her husband and two children, aged 2 and 4, were fast asleep.
That’s when everything changed.
“Not five minutes had passed before I heard the sound of the impact,” said Leeming Jaime.
A car had crashed into her neighbour’s home and struck a gas line.
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“Everyone in the immediate vicinity started trying to remove the person from the vehicle. The gas was hissing the whole time. We knew it was blasting into the air,” she said.
Over the next six minutes, Leeming Jaime said she went in and out of her home three times, the final time with her children in tow. That’s when police showed up, and about three minutes later, she says they were knocking on doors getting people out of their homes.
“It wasn’t another six minutes before the house went up in a fiery ball of flames,” she said.
“If we didn’t have those extra minutes to get out of our houses, grab our children or whatever the case may be, who knows what would have happened,” said Leeming Jaime.
Even before the blast, Leeming Jaime thinks she was already in a state of shock. She doesn’t remember feeling the shockwave or heat of the explosion.
“I don’t know how that’s possible. The blast blew my husband’s hat off his head so I know I should’ve felt it but I didn’t,” she said.
At the time, she didn’t think about how the blast would affect her home and life. Leeming Jaime said she was just horrified that her next-door neighbour’s home had blown up.
“Your brain can’t get around this stuff,” she said.
“If you haven’t experienced anything like this before, there’s no groundwork for your brain to even really comprehend it.”
While her family is physically unscathed, she said her perspective on life has shifted.
“When you’re in a situation where you come out of it and you’re just happy to be alive, kind of a newly found life, you just have to persevere and deal with any trauma,” she said.
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Now, Leeming Jamie and her family are staying with her sister and brother-in-law, but the trauma of that night still lingers, with memories triggered by thunderstorms and sirens.
“Even seeing blue safety fencing similar to the one around my property, it all serves as reminders,” she said.
What’s next for her family? Leeming Jaime is unsure.
“We haven’t considered what we’re going to do in finding somewhere to live. But I have to,” she said.
“My four-year-old goes to school in a couple of weeks. I need to be able to provide a sense of normalcy for them more than myself, right? We definitely have to find somewhere to go and just rebuild that normalcy that we get used to and that mundane life that we sometimes even complain about,” said Leeming Jaime.
“I want that normal boring life because this is not fun. You just want your car back, you want your stuff back.”
Leeming Jaime said they haven’t decided if they’ll ever go back to 452 Woodman Ave., but she is sure of one thing: her respect and appreciation for first responders.
She said she thinks about the firefighter who is still in hospital after responding to the blast constantly.
“To his family, there’s not a moment that he’s not in my thoughts,” she said.
“I’m just very appreciative to all first responders. Those people who choose those careers, who are brave and altruistic enough to put themselves in those jobs knowing what situations they’re going to find themselves in.
“I would ask everyone to think and pray and really just respect those people. Think and pray for that man for what he’s going through and what he’s going to go through,” she added.
“Hold respect for those individuals taking on those jobs that most of us would not and could not do.”