SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 20, 2007

Easily startled, some residents still wary in the aftermath of the blast

Amanda McGregor

DANVERS — Linda Carney jumps when she sees flashes of light -- and she is not alone.

As the residents of Danversport piece their lives and homes back together, people say that while they feel safe, they're still haunted by the fiery explosion that jolted them out of sleep on Thanksgiving Eve. Some still struggle with sleeplessness and sensitivity to loud noises.

"My daughter is afraid of the sound of loud wind," said John Lynch of 9 Bates St.

"I'm sure we'll be that way for a while," said Bates Street resident Lisa Berman. "My neighbor next-door and I talk about it and we say the same thing: She can't sleep. She hears noises and she jumps out of her skin, and I'm the same way."

Bates Street resident Donna Joyce was Christmas shopping at Target last year and was startled by a sneeze.

"We were in line and a guy sneezed a huge sneeze, and I just gasped and grabbed my throat," she said.

"It's still hard. You still kind of lose it sometimes," said Janet Lettich of Riverside Street.

For many Danversport residents, the stress of the last year was compounded by the confusion of navigating insurance claims, and rebuilding and repairing their homes.

"Hectic. Hectic and nerve-racking," said Bates Street resident Kelly Lord when asked to describe their 10-month displacement and rebuilding. "We had to make lots of financial decisions, and all the decisions of building a new house | doorknobs, windows, where to put the bathrooms, color of the bathrooms."

"In 45 minutes, I watched 25 years of my life put in the Dumpster," Lettich said of the day her home was torn down at 12 Riverside St.

But many Danversport residents say they are resolved to move forward.

"When we get down, aggravated and annoyed, we remind ourselves we are lucky, lucky," said Lord. During the explosion, the force launched Lord's bureau into her forehead, where she had stitches and still bears the scar above her eye.

Some residents believe a miracle saved them the night of the explosion -- and there are countless stories of near misses: photos of beds heaped with debris, air conditioners, window frames, and other objects that pummeled residents as they slept and were blown across rooms and into walls. Deborah Riva, of 1 Bates St., walked barefoot down her staircase covered in shattered glass | and she didn't get a scratch.

"We all climbed out of the rubble," said Lord.

Janet and Mark Lettich remember stopping by their old neighborhood over the summer. Their new house was under construction and the electricity hadn't been installed yet, so they sat in two chairs in their bedroom, looking out at the water.

"We heard someone playing the piano next door and we started crying," said Janet. "We said, 'Someone in the neighborhood and home and happy, and maybe we'll be home and happy soon.'"

Now back at home, they are.

"Dorothy was right," said Mark Lettich, referring to "The Wizard of Oz."

His wife finishes the thought in unison: "There is no place like home."