Thursday, 6 June 2013

An Explosion in our Building

Friday night I was sitting in our apartment chatting with my dear friends Reg and Kriz, enjoying the company and our comfortable home. It was 8pm and Makai was already in bed. Darnell and Cody were watching basketball at the court in the basement of our complex. I had been getting ready for a weekend away with Darnell the next morning, something we were really looking forward to. I had laundry to fold in the bedroom, dishes to clean in the kitchen and toys to tidy in the family room, but I had put those tasks on hold and was enjoying the company of my friends. And then I heard the explosion. It was like a sudden bang of thunder, but far more forceful. I screamed and jumped in fright.

Our front door flew open and red filled the room, like lightning does on a dark night. Then the door slammed shut again. We got up, frantic and afraid, wondering what the blast was. Reg tried to open the door, but couldn’t. We panicked. I ran to Makai’s crib, picked him up and we went to the balcony to see what happened. I remember yelling, in vain, “How do we get out?!?!” There was no fire escape and I imagined our hallways as a fiery furnace. I have never been so afraid.

We tried the door again and to our relief, it opened. I remember thinking that I should put shoes on. Taking anything else never crossed my mind. We started running down the 4 flights of stairs and all I could think of was Darnell and Cody. I imagined the basement crumbling from the blast and them being trapped. I ran down the stairs praying/screaming, “oh Lord please let Darnell and Cody be safe!”

When I got outside, I looked up at our apartment building and saw that the corner suite, just down our hallway, was blown out. The balcony was in pieces and an entire wall had disappeared. I could hardly believe it. 

I realized then, that Darnell and Cody would be fine, but I was still panicking and I ran to the gym, with Makai still in my arms, held tightly. The girls could hardly keep up to me and were trying to tell me to calm down. When I saw the other half of my family coming up the stairs to see what the noise was, I wept with thankfulness and cried into Darnell's arms. I tried to compose myself so Cody wouldn’t be scared. He kept saying, “Its okay Mommy, don’t cry.” We had a group hug and I held my family tight.

I told Darnell that there was an explosion in our building. We walked a little closer to look and saw lots of friends emerging from the various building in our complex, asking questions and in shock. We quickly felt like we should get away, as the chaos and smoke was too much. We went to the book store across the street and tried to relax. Darnell had his phone, his wallet, Cody’s basketball and a water bottle. I had my shoes and my baby. Kriz and Reg had their purses. We had to figure out where to go and what to do- it was late and the kids needed to sleep. We decided to stay at our friends house, another couple from Vancouver with an extra room and two kids the same age as ours. I couldn’t call my friend so we just decided to knock on their door. When we walked into the main entrance of our complex, one of my friends ran to me crying, so thankful that we were okay. Everyone knows where we live and could see how close the blast was to us. When they couldn’t find us, many were afraid for us. When I finally got my phone 4 days later I had 23 texts and 15 missed calls.

We arrived at my friends and they were more than happy to host our family and Reg and Kriz. They had an extra pack and play, soothers, and even the same muslin blankets Cody needs for sleeping. We talked and cried and the two little buddies played trains. Darnell found out that they were putting us up in a hotel- we planned to go the next day. I slept uneasily in a cozy clean bed, waking to every sound or peep from any of the 4 kids in the house. Cody spent half the night in our bed.

We found out the next day that 3 people died, all killed from the concrete wall that flew off and landed on a delivery truck driving by. And there was someone in the room when the suite blew up and he’s in critical condition. Several others are injured. There have been no official statements, but it seems that it was caused by a gas leak. Our whole complex still has no gas.

Since Saturday we’ve been staying in a hotel across the street, with all our meals covered too. Our friends here are all supporting us, lending us everything we need- clothes, stroller, cribs and many other necessities. Sunday we had a shopping spree, with 2 full outfits for each of us provided.

And yesterday we were able to return to our house for the first time, just for 20 minutes to grab some clothes, documents and other essential things. They briefed us and had us wear hard hats and boots. I wasn’t sure I was ready though.

Each flight of stairs I walked up, I felt more and more unsettled. When I got to our floor, the floor of the explosion, I broke down and wept. This hallway, the elevator, the neighbours' doors- this space we are in everyday, in and out all the time - was like a bomb site. I stepped over glass, drywall, pieces of concrete and chewed up doors to get to our apartment. I sat on my couch where I experienced the explosion a few days earlier and cried. Our space we call home had a layer of dust, glass in the entrance and a terrible stench from our rotting food and dirty dishes. My laundry still needed to be folded. Cody’s puzzle was still on the floor, the pieces strewn about just like our building now was. This was our first home in the Philippines, a space we loved. But it wasn’t home anymore.

We grabbed our suitcases and filled them with clothes, books, toys, our laptops and important documents. We grabbed Kriz’s stuff, the luggage she brought for her 3 week visit here from Davao. We grabbed Reg’s computer and her overnight bag. I took our wedding picture from the book shelf. I took the granola bars I had made for the boys. I took Cody’s beautiful quilt.

We’ve realized now that we won’t live in that home again. So far the building is still under investigation and when it is handed over to the property managers, we really don’t know what will happen. If the building can be salvaged and renovated, it will take months and we don’t want to live in that mess, nor do we want to live in a hotel until the apartment is liveable.

So we’re looking for a new apartment in the same complex. We're continuing our language study. We’re trying to make our hotel rooms feel like home. We’re eating good buffet meals and we’re hanging out at our friends houses during the day a lot. We’re trying to feel normal. It’s hard though.

We're also finding new ways to serve in our community, as many people are very traumatized. We held a trauma healing meeting yesterday with our friend from Davao who is a clinical psychologist. It was good. And so needed. The friends here who came are wanting to do it again, and others are also calling, interested. Last night we had a Peace Church gathering at our friends house in our same complex. It was good to gather as a community and find support.

Our boys are doing well. Cody is still with his friends here and doing his swimming lessons and yoga, despite some location changes. He can tell the whole story of the explosion with more detail than I realized he knew. But he still asks me several times a day, “What happened in our hallway Mommy?” Today he told Darnell in the elevator that we live on the 12th floor now, not the 5th anymore. He’s also more clingy to us and we are making sure one of us is always with him. I am so thankful that Cody was not in our house when the explosion happened. And I’m so thankful I wasn’t alone with Makai, but that my two dear sisters were with us.

Never did we imagine that the place we called home would, in one second, look like a bomb site. Never did we imagine the danger we would feel in our high security residential complex. But we are just so thankful that we are safe and well taken care of. 

Thank you all for your support and prayers as we process this and figure out the next steps. 

this is as close as we can now get to take a picture... can you see the destroyed apartment? our
suite is also on the 4th floor, behind the bush with a balcony. 

this is the unit and the truck that was hit by the wall. the photo taken by a friend from his unit.

the evacuees the next morning :)


  1. So happy you guys are okay and doing well in the aftermath. Hope you can find a new place soon and settle into a home again. Love you!

    Kelly Schmidt

  2. So glad that you guys are ok. What a scary experience! Love you guys.

  3. Glad you guys are ok! Please let us know if you need anything. We are always around. - Kat and Errol

  4. I'm so sorry to hear of this trauma, but thankful that your family and friends were not injured. We'll pray for emotional recovery and that you find a new place to call home. I'm pretty impressed that you were put up in a hotel with meals and provided with clothing. Blessings, June

    1. Thanks for the prayers June! It is definitely great that we've had help following this devastation... the land developer is very well-known (owns half of Manila probably..... half of the malls for sure) and they are basically trying to save their name by taking care of us and keeping us happy. Its also kind of their fault, as they didn't install proper gas leak detectors. We're still at the hotel now but are looking for a new place. We look forward to getting back to normal!
      Thanks again for the prayers and support,

  5. I am in shock after reading this! It's surreal from my perspective, so I can't imagine what you went through and are still experiencing. Thank God you are all okay and have so many people there to support you through this trauma. I'm sending my prayers your way for healing and freedom from fear. Just as you have comforted your children and assured them that they are safe, I pray God will surround you both in the security and comfort of God's strong embrace.

    1. Thanks for your prayers and encouragement. Can I ask who this is? :)