The claw of a giant Caterpillar bit into the roof of 8409 Fieldfare Way as a contractor’s piece of heavy equipment began the work of demolishing the wreckage of the Richmond Hill community so that the neighborhood could be built again.
The two story brick home was three doors down from 8349 Fieldfare Way, which was leveled by a natural gas explosion November 10th.
Neighbors Jennifer and Dion Longworth died in the resulting fire and collapse of their own home.
Moncy Shirley–the owner of the house that exploded–and her boyfriend Mark Leonard were out of town and have since been questioned by police.
Six homes in the immediate vicinity have been targeted for demolition by the end of the week.
Two dozen more will come down before Christmas.
Some of the properties within the immediate blast zone will remain untouched and available to homicide and fire investigators searching for a cause to the blast.
The owners of 8409 Fieldfare watched the heavy equipment take down the home they’ve lived in for two years.
“Surprisingly they were laughing and seemed to be okay with it,” said Mike Phillips after he stood with his friends. “They were upbeat. We were joking, trying to keep it lighthearted because they had lived there a couple years and I think they’re ready to start the process as well.”
The process of tearing down part of the neighborhood to bring it back.
“It’s sad. It’s sad for everybody who lived here,” said Doug Aldridge, a founding member of the homeowners association whom everyone refers to as “The Mayor of Richmond Hill.”
“This is the beginning of the rebuilding. You have to tear these houses down to start all over again and as much as it pains everybody and it hurts a lot watching this, we’ll rebuild,” Aldridge said. “That’s the big thing in this neighborhood. We’ve got a lot of strong neighbors. Some aren’t coming back. Some are going to rebuild, but this is where we’ve got to start.”
At Towhees Drive and Andrusia Lane, a banner strung across playground equipment encourages the neighbors to hang tough.
Across the street, a resident placed Christmas decorations in his yard as residents struggle to maintain a sense of normalcy amidst the chaos of disaster.
“This is horrible for us and our neighborhood’s been strong and everything,” said Aldridge struggling to hold back tears as he admits to suffering from survivor’s guilt since his home was undamaged.
“I know you guys want a story out of this and there’s a lot of human interest in all of this but what would it be like if it was your neighborhood? We’ve got to live here for another ten and 15 years, so we need to get back to normal.”