Explosion destroys a house full of memories

June 30, 1994|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Sun Staff Writer

Marjorie A. Russo stood barefoot in her nightgown across Redmond Street from her house in Brooklyn Park early yesterday and watched it blow apart.

The 48-year-old woman, who had escaped with one of her dogs moments earlier by jumping out the kitchen window, saw pieces of the two-story house that had been her home for 27 years rattle against the neighbors' houses on both sides. The blast took with it mementos and memories of a lifetime, she said.

Mrs. Russo, who was resting at her daughter's house in Middle River yesterday afternoon, said she was talking on the phone in the upstairs bedroom shortly before 1 a.m. when she heard an explosion. She slammed down the phone as the lights started going out, grabbed Dewey, her 3-year-old sheltie, and ran downstairs.

A second Russo family dog, Webster, a 5-year-old Yorkie, was trapped in another bedroom and was killed in the explosion.

She said she closes her mind to what might have happened had her son, Frank A. Russo Jr., not left Saturday for a week's vacation in Ocean City with his girlfriend, his sister and her husband. Mr. Russo, 23, had been using the basement as a bedroom while men worked on the home.

He returned yesterday to find his mother standing amid shattered glass, clumps of clothes stuck in the debris and the smell of charred wood heavy in the air.

"We just hugged each other," Mr. Russo said.

Drivers going down the 5800 block of Redmond St. slowed throughout the day to look at the debris the explosion left behind.

Battalion Chief Gary Sheckells said investigators do not have an official cause for the explosion, which caused $200,000 in damage. He said it took firefighters about half an hour to bring the blaze under control.

For three days before the explosion, neighbors said, Mrs. Russo had been telling them she noticed an onion odor in her home. Thinking she might have forgotten about some onions that had spoiled, they told her to check her refrigerator.

"I can smell gas fumes," said Mrs. Russo. "But this was unreal. This smelled of onions."

Kate Knorr, who lives next door and was thrown six feet from her bed by the explosion, recalled, "I could hear her calling my name, 'Katie, please help me. Katie, please help me.' And I thought, 'Oh, my God, what if I can't get to her.' "

One side of Ms. Knorr's home was damaged by the explosion.

She said she had to stop Ms. Russo from going back in the house to rescue Webster.

Mrs. Russo and Dewey were separated for several hours until a stranger found the wet dog and returned him yesterday morning.

Mrs. Russo, who seemed to be taking the explosion in stride, cuddled Dewey yesterday and said, "What am I supposed to do, cry?"

"It will be a tough next couple of months until she figures out what happened," said her daughter, Tina M. Mason, 25.

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