Five years later in the Merrimack Valley

Wednesday marks five years since the devastating gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley. It was around 4:15 p.m. on that Thursday afternoon in 2018 when dozens of fires and explosions broke out.

Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover were all impacted. Bruce Razin lives two doors down from where 18-year-old Leonel Rondon was killed in Lawrence. “It was almost like Armageddon at one point because you didn’t know what was going to happen next,“ said Razin.

Rosemary Connelly Smedile says their gas leak turned their furnace into a flame thrower in the basement of their North Andover home. “Anything that was stuffed has to be thrown out because you can not get rid of this smell. Pretty much everything in our living room was gone,” said Connelly Smedile. Their home is put back together and anything that could be saved — was saved. “I’m not making this up. The basement was destroyed. On top of a box where some books were, untouched was my parents’ wedding album. Not anything wrong with it,” said Connelly Smedile.

The Soto family home in Lawrence was leveled. They talked to us right after about losing their entire house and two cats. “Total chaos. Fires and people’s screaming and crying,” said Soto. Five years later here on Jefferson Street, the Soto family home has been completely rebuilt. They sold it a couple of years ago to a new family.

Even with the damage repaired from that dark day, these communities will never forget the bravery they saw on the front lines. “When I talk about police and fire. They were going into unknown gas-filled homes getting people out, putting their lives at risk,” described Connelly Smedile.

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