Families recall south side disaster, work to rebuild community

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It was the blast that was heard for miles and literally shook a neighborhood from its core.

This Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of the Southside explosion. Neighbors at Richmond Hill will forever remember November 10th, as the night three people allegedly blew up their home out of greed.

“I feel like I’m about to relive it all,” said Theresa Carmichael. “I can feel the pressure. I can feel the stress coming on more just because it is the one-year anniversary.”

One year later, Fox 59 sat down with three families who have allowed us to follow their journeys since the explosion. They have been broken, but have strived to rebuild both a home and themselves, day by day.

Cox Family:

“In the mornings, I would get up because I had to get my kids on the bus,” said Andrea Cox.

Four homes from ground zero, the blast destroyed Cox’s house. The south wall, where her son, Chris, slept, suffered the most damage.

Andrea remembers those frantic seconds after the blast when he didn’t come out of his room.

“The climb up those 17 steps was the longest climb ever,” said Cox. “I saw a triangle of insulation on his head and I said, ‘Something horrible has happened. You’ve got to get out of your bed.’”

It was hard to keep spirits high during the holidays. With most of their belongings in storage, their home of nine years demolished, the family of four spent Christmas in their temporary apartment.

They were also still mourning the loss of their dog, Shadow.

“I felt like a huge failure as a mom,” said Cox. “I promised the kids that she would be okay and we’d find her. That’s the first promise I ever broke to my kids.”

Through their heart-ache, the Cox family has found healing – from the first day crews broke ground, to last-minute checks before move-in day.

As she walked around her new home, Cox knows what’s brought her here is a new-found faith that’s never felt so strong.

“I went through each of the rooms and found a verse from the bible and wrote it with permanent market. So I have Bible created within the house,” she said.

Carmichael Family:

Just down the street, those words of hope are hung right by Theresa Carmichael’s front door.

“I call this my wall of faith. My wall of love,” she said. “Just the things we need to remember every day.”

It is a daily reminder for her and daughter, Rhianna. The single mom was able to salvage their home after the explosion. Theresa immediately devoted herself to help neighbors who lost everything.

Her nickname was ‘Deputy Mayor’.

“I’ll never forget driving through just to see what greed and evil did to our community,” said Theresa.

However, Theresa began noticing problems at home once winter came. The walls were buckling, her stairwell and floors were squeaking from being shifted off its foundation.

She, too, had to move out.

“I would come home crying every day, even though my home was there,” Theresa said tearfully. “You go on with life. It’s just…we’ll never forget.”

Schout Family

“I had to make the world as right as I could, as soon as I could,” said Sarah Schout. “When things aren’t under my control, it’s hard to figure out what your next step should be.”

Sarah Schout’s journey has been nothing short of overwhelming. It’s been especially hard for her two oldest, Ethan and Ada, who are autistic. Sarah and her husband, Garrett, decided to keep the kids away from the disaster until they broke ground in August.

“We wanted to give them something positive to see. It’s hard for them, especially our two oldest, to understand.”

The Schouts have found blessings in their loss. With their insurance settlement and savings, the family of six is transforming their 1500-square-foot full house to a two-story with more than double the space.

They are hoping to move in by Christmas.

“We were not expecting to get this kind of house,” Schout chuckled. ”Now we’re going to get it three years early!”

Those in Richmond Hill know life may never be quite like what it was. These women have learned to look past those missing holes.

Instead, they would much rather give the finishing touches.

“I just want the house to be filled with love and laughter,” said Cox.