For many Richmond Hill neighbors, the first time they met several Metro firefighters and police officers was when emergency crews swarmed their neighborhood the night of November 10th when a house exploded, killing two people and damaging dozen of homes.
Sunday night, at Southport Presbyterian Church, the residents got to say thanks to the first responders who put them first on the worst night of their lives during an appreciation dinner.
“I think it was really important to say thank you because a lot of times we focus too much on the negative of what happens with different public safety officials,” said neighbor Shannon Striegel, “and they were so instrumental in what could have been so awful and was not.”
Natasha Cole, who lived two doors down from the house that exploded on Fieldfare Way that night, told Fox 59 News she cried the first time she heard fire radio dispatch tapes of rescuers searching the house she shared with her husband in the minutes after the blast.
“There’s just not words to express how grateful we are and just what an amazing person they are to put themselves at risk for others without hesitation because its what they do and they do it well,” she said. “This community is so lucky to have these people here for us in time of crisis. They’re amazing and we should just be grateful to have these kind of people here in our town ready and willing to make our town a better place.”
Dozens of on-duty and off-duty police officers, sheriff’s deputies, firefighters, ambulance crews and city officials responded to the explosion at the home of Moncy Shirley.
Shirley and boyfriend Mark Leonard were at a southern Indiana casino at the time of the blast which killed neighbors Dion and Jennifer Longworth,
Shirley, Leonard and Bob Leonard have been charged with murder and arson in what authorities describe as a $300,000 insurance fraud scheme.
They face trial in March.
Mayor Greg Ballard thanked the neighbors for their support of the first responders.
“Even in a time of great tragedy they do a remarkable job and keep their wits about them, keep their level of competence extremely high so that the best things can happen as a result of the tragedy.”
Manpower costs to the department of public safety totaled more than a quarter million dollars.
Approximately 30 homes have been demolished in the Richmond Hill community with others remaining boarded up.