London

'OEV may be temporarily fractured, but we are not broken:' Community comes together in support of OEV

More than 400 community members came together for a community picnic to show their support for Old East Village. As those who lost their homes from their explosion on Woodman Avenue start to rebuild their lives, one addressed the crowd on Sunday to thank them for their support. 

A woman who lost her home after the explosion thanked the community for their help.

Community members were offering people hugs at Sunday's gathering. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

More than 400 community members came together for a community picnic to show their support for Old East Village as cleanup continued in the neighbourhood rocked by a natural gas explosion caused by an alleged drunk driver. 

Most residents on Woodman Avenue and surrounding streets have been able to return home, but there are still five houses deemed unsafe for re-entry. Two other homes were demolished over the weekend. 

One firefighter remains in hospital in stable but serious condition. His family has asked for privacy and the fire department has not indicated the nature of his injuries. 

The gathering Sunday at the Boyle Community Centre was a chance for people to talk, eat and take stock of the tragedy.

Jessica Leeming-Jamie and her family lived right beside the house that was at the centre of the explosion Wednesday night. 

"Yesterday our house and everything we owned was taken to the dump," she told those at the picnic. "In the shadow of this tragedy, as we take steps to move forward, there are so many people to thank and acknowledge," she added. 

2-year-old Zach Jaime, Mario Jaime and Jessica Leeming-Jaime lost their home in the explosion on Woodman Avenue. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

Leeming-Jaime thanked the first responders for their bravery and the entire London community for their generosity. 

"The love and support in this community is only growing. You're meeting neighbours that you never knew their names and strangers are opening their homes to us. It's incredible," she said.  

Leeming-Jaime believes the community will only come out stronger after last week's explosion. 

"OEV may be temporarily fractured, but we are not broken," she said. 

Kate Ahrens says it will take some before she and her neighbours in Old East Village can return to a new normal after the explosion. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

Kate Ahrens was one of the community volunteers who helped serve fruit at the picnic organized by Youth Opportunities Unlimited and ATN Access. 

She says it was important for her to show her support to her neighbours in whichever way she could

"The whole community has been shaken up by what happened and it feels really nice to help out and be around my neighbours," she said. "I think it's going to take a little while until we all kind of feel like we get back to whatever the new normal will be."

Groups across the city have been collecting donations, including clothing and furniture. Organizers say the response has been overwhelming and are asking people to give cash or gift cards. 

now