Today was my first day back in the office after the gas explosion and building collapse two weeks ago. I was home sick when it happened, and I’d been working from home since, while the office was being thoroughly cleaned of dust. I have never been more grateful for a head cold than for the one that kept me home that day. Two people were killed in the collapse, but luckily all my coworkers evacuated safely. It was crazy to switch on the news and see the street where I walk every single day up in flames.
I work in the short red brick building to the left of this photo:
It is surreal to see this corner empty, to see an open space where Pommes Frites used to be, to have to walk behind a police barricade to get to my office. I have to change my shoes upon entering the building so that I don’t track asbestos inside, and while in the office I wear booties over my shoes.
I realized that if I was being told not to wear my outside shoes in the office, then I probably shouldn’t wear them inside my apartment either. So I picked an old pair of shoes to wear just for walking between the subway and work, to be thrown out eventually. They’re a favorite comfortable pair of mine that used to look professional but have since become so worn out that my mom told me they look too ratty to wear to work anymore. I figured I would send them out with a bang. The first time I ever wore them was actually in this same neighborhood several years ago, at an interview for a job I didn’t get. It was the first time I’d walked around these streets, and I remember being enchanted. These flats have since logged many miles at Disneyland, and now they will be laid to rest after soaking up asbestos from the first streets they ever knew.
Anyway, there were a lot of people walking around in the neighborhood today and businesses were open, despite the warning of asbestos in the air. I hope the local small businesses can stay alive; this area is filled with independent shops and an incident like this has the potential to really hurt the community.
I’m still processing all of this. The small hardships I have to deal with—no heat or hot water in the office for a few more weeks; noise and construction; disrupted telephone lines—are nothing in comparison to the suffering of those who were killed and injured, or even of anyone who was actually present for the explosion itself. I’m really, really lucky.