A Night We Can’t Forget: the Durham Woods Explosion

It had just turned midnight, one night in 1994, and we were about to go to bed. Patty was napping on the couch. I lay on the floor, listening to the radio: John Batchelor covering the latest crisis over North Korean saber-rattling.

A sudden flash turned the night into day. Then our windows began to rattle in their frames. “Get down on the floor–now!” I cried, fearful that the windows might blow in and shower us with broken glass. My first thought was, “It’s a bomb. Somebody’s dropped a bomb on us.”

By and by, we couldn’t resist the urge to go outside and see what we could see. Everyone else in the neighborhood was already out there, in their bathrobes and pajamas.

And a roaring pillar of fire stretched toward the highest heaven.

We advanced a few blocks, trying to find out more. The whole town was milling around outside. Hours later, when the windows finally stopped rattling, we went to bed.

The next day we learned that a gas main had exploded under the Durham Woods apartment complex, two or three miles from our home.

Miraculously, no one was killed in the fire, although hundreds of residents lost their homes and all their belongings. The only fatality was a woman who’d had a heart attack. But the Edison Township Fire Dept. and police, with help from wherever they could get it, performed heroically: they saved many lives that night.

We think we know what the end of the world would look like.

8 comments on “A Night We Can’t Forget: the Durham Woods Explosion

  1. Oh, horrors. I have never experienced a thing like that, but my family has lost 2 homes, and we lost an apartment building by fire- no explosion. Very terrible thing.

  2. When I was a child, a house, perhaps 3/4 of a mile away suffered a gas explosion. There was a huge concussion and then the horizon, in that direction, was red. Tiny by comparison to your experience, so I can only imagine what a 36″ main would be like.

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