Community prepares for first anniversary of explosion

first_imgA memorial placed across the street from the explosion at 313 Farmington Falls Road last year, Sept. 16, 2019.FARMINGTON – If pressed for the reason why Life Enrichment Advancing People Inc. operates so successfully, Director Darryl Wood doesn’t miss a beat:“We have great employees,” he responds almost instantly. “They are dedicated to our mission, and they show up everyday no matter what is going on in the world, realizing their actions that day are impacting people’s lives.”LEAP supports adults living in the Farmington area who have developmental, cognitive and intellectual disabilities. LEAP’s mission, in statement form, is to “empower people with disabilities to lead joyful lives with dignity, independence, and autonomy by providing comprehensive and individualized supports.” But looked at closer, the mission is really about instilling hope, Wood said.“The [Stone Soup] gardens are symbolic of hope. You plant that seed and hope that you get a 15 foot sunflower. Our job at LEAP is to interject hope for a future where people can be as independent as possible and after an incident like Sept. 16 you have to be dealing with the moment but looking toward the future,” he said.It will be one year next week since the explosion of the LEAP Inc. building on Route 2. The September 16 incident, caused by a propane leak in the newly built facility, triggered a ripple of mourning that reached across the country. The incident caused the death of Farmington Fire Rescue’s Captain Michael Bell, and severely injured seven others including LEAP employee Larry Lord.“The first two hours were just shock and fugue. Then my brain started thinking, ‘oh my goodness, this is going to be in the news. There are going to be people concerned about our staff and the people we support,’” Wood said.As ash and debris still fell from the sky, Wood set his own emotions to the side and stepped into his role of director.“You know, you have this big tragic thing happen, and at the same time you realize you have 200 people that need a pay check on Friday, and dozens and dozens of people living throughout community who need support today and despite what’s going on, our actions need to make sure those things continue to happen,” Wood said.In the days following, Wood was able to re-home all of his employees in a professional office space, thanks to the offerings of help from community members. His staff members didn’t pause, and the people supported by them received the same high quality attention they were so accustomed to.“There were some pretty low moments, but I think what carried me through was being able to focus on helping other people. And truthfully, that’s LEAP…our Direct Support Professionals are underpaid and have really hard jobs, so we have to encourage the heart. There are so many moving parts of LEAP. I’ve always felt like our risk of bad things happening is mitigated by building an employee base who believes in our mission and trusts who we are as a management team,” Wood said. “And never more than after that incident was I thankful that we had built that support and trust.”One year later and LEAP Inc. is doing just fine, Wood said. Their short-term office and training space lease will carry them through to next summer, and there are several options in the air for a long term placement. Larry Lord has returned home from the Intensive Care Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, as well as all of the firefighters who were injured by the explosion. The community will never stop mourning the loss of Captain Michael Bell, Wood said.Both LEAP and Farmington Fire Rescue received thousands upon thousands of messages, donations and gifts from people and businesses across the United States who were moved by the news. More than 80 fire departments throughout New England showed up in the months following to offer support with equipment and firefighters.“The incident didn’t just affect our department, it affected the entire community. The food, the donations…it reached beyond even our local community to country wide,” Deputy Chief Tim Hardy said.Hardy said it’s still a daily occurrence to get asked how the department is doing.“People are still caring,” he said.Due to COVID restrictions, the large event that had been planned for the Sept. 16 anniversary is not possible. A small, invite-only ceremony will take place the day, followed by a 10 a.m. wreath laying at the site of the explosion, 313 Farmington Falls Road. Community members are welcome to drive by around this time, but should expect some traffic congestion.last_img

Leave a Comment