ANDOVER, Mass. — One year ago, the Merrimack Valley experienced explosions that took a life and impacted thousands of others. A frightening time that some have been able to move past, while others cannot.
There are different ways to remember what happened in the Merrimack Valley one year ago. Today, in Andover, a community gathering is being held by town leaders.
Heather Carroll was about to celebrate her birthday two days early on September 13, 2018. She'd been married for just one year when natural gas explosions turned her new apartment upside down.
That multi-level apartment had been where Carroll and her husband had planned to live for the next four years. Within minutes of thinking back, tears began to flow.
"Obviously it still bothers me thinking about it," she said.
She does cling to one item that was somehow spared in the disaster: her wedding dress.
"My wedding dress, that was saved, which was great," she said. "It wasn't even a year old."
Carroll and her husband now share a new house in Dracut, paid through claims from Columbia Gas, though she's not thanking the utility faulted in the explosion.
"I was chasing Columbia around for literally 7 months until we were paid in full," she said.
Instead, she is thanking family who took the Carrolls in when their home was left in shambles.
Images from one year ago across the Merrimack Valley capture the chaotic day in which explosions caused by over-pressurized gas lines overwhelmed the region. A teenager in Lawrence killed by debris while sitting in his car. Homes toppled, dozens of restaurants with gas-fed appliances destroyed, a devastating day by any count.
Columbia Gas, the utility at the center of it all. Months of work to replace 48 miles of pipeline would follow along with state hearings, a $143 million settlement and still many trying to heal even after repairs have been made and a full year has passed.
"It's a process," said Martina Cruz of Lawrence. "It's a process that takes a long time."
"I think they're trying to make amends," said Joanne Pratt of Andover. "I think there are a lot of other people who have had a lot less luck then I have had."
"If it wasn’t for me being retired and me flagging down a truck and befriending this fellow who was very helpful, we would have been lost," added Betty Cunningham of Andover.
In Andover, the community gathering goes until 6 p.m.
Boston 25 News asked a spokesman for Columbia Gas about the blame they're getting from people like the Carrolls and others. They said 97% of claims were paid and that claims weren't paid unless customers agreed.
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