Families Deal with Aftermath of Powerful Explosion

By: Andrew Colegrove; Lauren Schmoll Email
By: Andrew Colegrove; Lauren Schmoll Email

SISSONVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- “Looks like a war zone,” explosion victim Shirley McMillian said -- five little words that describe her new reality.

It's been nearly two days since a gas pipeline exploded yards from her home. Wednesday, she came to see what was left.

“When we got stuck in this traffic over here -- almost here -- I was shaking, I was so nervous,” McMillian said.

She still hasn't been able to get inside.

“I don't think there's anything there. It just doesn't look like there's anything,” McMillian said. “I saw an aerial video that was kinda close on one of the TV stations. And it just looked like an empty hole in the ground inside the house.”

Brandi McNeely is McMillian’s granddaughter. She says her grandmother would have normally been home asleep at the time of the explosion.

"Any other day she would have, because she works night shift, so she's normally home sleeping at that time," McNeely said.

Instead, she was at a Christmas party where McNeely’s mother works.

“We might have lost materials, but we didn't lose any of us... That would have been 10 times worse than it is already, so we're really thankful," McNeely said.

Heather Haynes has lived across the street from McMillian's house her whole life. Now her home is gone, too.

“This is the only place I've ever known,” Haynes said. “This is home. And that house right there has been there before I was even born.”

Heather's stepmother Sue was next door when the explosion happened.

“I didn't know if a plane was crashing or there was an earthquake,” Sue Bonham said. “I really didn't know what was going on.”

Rocks crashed through her ceiling. The heat was so intense it melted her car. She crawled outside to try and get to safety -- all the while, on the phone -- so firefighters could find her.

“I really didn't think I was going to get out alive,” Bonham said. “I felt like I was going to be burned alive.”

Despite the struggle that lies ahead, all are thankful for one thing.

“We are blessed that we still have our lives and all our family does, too,” McMillian said.

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