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Families may remain displaced for a year after condo explosion

County officials held a Zoom meeting to update the community on the investigation. Some were frustrated with the lack of information provided

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — A community meeting was held for the residents of Potomac Oaks Thursday night.

The meeting was supposed to be an opportunity for the victims of the Potomac Oaks explosion to ask questions.

About 100 people were on the Zoom call, including residents, representatives of the police and fire departments and other county officials.

Many of the residents asked questions about the timeline of when it is expected they will be allowed to return to their homes.

They were told it would likely be months if not a year.

One of the people on the call was Grace DiMartini. She was hoping to get answers about what happened and why. She told WUSA9 she was disappointed by the lack of details shared.

"I got more information from the news outlets and articles than from the fire and safety and police department in that Zoom meeting," she said.

She grew up in building 826 at Potomac Oaks. She was at college in Philadelphia, and her mom was at work in Washington, D.C. when their building exploded.

Credit: wusa9

DiMartini told WUSA9 she found out about the explosion through social media.

"I got a Snapchat of my building on fire."

Since she knew her mom wasn't there at the time, they had spoken not long before it, her first concern was her neighbors. 

"I knew there were children in there," she said.

When she learned they were OK, her next concern was her cat, Rocky. 

"I was sitting there thinking my cat was burning alive in this explosion," DiMartini said.

Credit: Grace DiMartini

Luckily, a family friend found Rocky the next day and they were reunited. DiMartini said it's been tough knowing her family home is gone, but says she's just grateful things weren't worse.

"Things are all replaceable" DiMartini said.

Editor's Note: The story below contains mention of death by suicide. If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or 988. You can also text a crisis counselor by messaging the Crisis Text Line at 741741. It is free, available 24/7, and confidential.

She tells WUSA9 she never met the man who investigators say they believe took his own life, and in the process caused the explosion, but that her mom had, and who had been described to her as shy.

She shared that had her mom known this man was in pain, "she would have done anything if he had come to her."

She tells WUSA9 both she and her mother are staying in Pennsylvania.

As for her neighbors who aren't staying with family, the county says they have been placed in hotels.

There is also a fund that's been created to help the families of the Potomac Oaks explosion. To donate, click here. The county says some of the money has been distributed, and 100% of it will go to the families.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential support for those in crisis 24/7 simply by dialing 988 or 1-800-273-8255.


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