By: Robin Desmet – Oct. 2018
The day the gas lines exploded is one that will not quickly be forgotten by residents in the Merrimack Valley. It was a day filled with confusion, fear, and tragedy. Nobody knew what was happening or why it was happening. Was it terrorism? Sabotage? Negligence? First responders from towns near and far raced to help as residents hurriedly evacuated with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
By the weekend, the city of Lawrence had morphed into a ghost town. Streets normally teeming with vehicles and pedestrians were deserted, save for emergency vehicles and a few stragglers lugging groceries from afar. An eerie calm settled over the city, the incessant honking of horns replaced with a deafening silence.
While the human suffering of this tragedy is first and foremost in our minds, a disaster of this magnitude affects everything and everyone in the region, including our pets.
In stark contrast to the quiet that descended over the city of Lawrence was the bustling activity simultaneously taking place at Nevin’s Farm in Methuen. When tragedy struck, Nevins staffers immediately sprang into action, opening the doors to families in need, offering to shelter the pets of displaced families for as long as they needed.
The typically busy shelter was a scene of controlled chaos like I have never seen. Staff and volunteers streamed into the shelter, each person working tirelessly to help the displaced animals and console their distraught owners. Volunteers from shelters as far away as Connecticut arrived to offer assistance. Donations poured in. Members of the community called and stopped by, offering to help. Staff and Volunteers that had arrived early in the morning were still there long after closing. Nevins nation pulled together in an incredible show of teamwork and solidarity fueled by adrenaline.
In the end, 92 animals were given temporary shelter at Nevin’s Farm. Each animal had a space where they rested in relative privacy and comfort while the world swirled around them.
It was beyond heartwarming to see people unite during this time of tragedy. But, while many people have been impacted by the gas explosions, none has been affected more than the Figueroa family of Lawrence. Omayra Figueroa’s home exploded and family friend Leonel Rondon was killed in the blast. Omayra’s daughter Shakira was home at the time of the blast and has suffered catastrophic injuries. Shakira has already undergone numerous surgeries and she remains hospitalized at this time.
Her brothers Christian and Sergio were in a car in the driveway when the home exploded and both are suffering from internal injuries. The home is a total loss and the entire family is suffering from physical and emotional trauma that most of us can only imagine.
The Figueroas have been customers of Packard Pharmacy, my family’s business where I work as a pharmacist, for over 15 years. We are deeply saddened by the tragedy that has affected the Figueroa family and our hearts go out to this family that has suffered so much. We are currently collecting donations in the form of gift cards and/or cash or checks made out to Omayra Figueroa. Donations can be dropped off at the pharmacy where they will be held under lock and key or mailed to Packard Pharmacy at 128 Parker St., Lawrence, MA 01843.
Thanks to all of the volunteers and first responders who helped during this time. God bless the Figueroa family and all who have been affected by this tragedy.
Author: Robin J Desmet, Rph and MSPCA volunteer.