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Families of Victims Hold Vigil on Anniversary of East Harlem Explosion

By Gustavo Solis | March 12, 2015 1:15pm
 Families of victims came together for the anniversary of the East Harlem explosion. 
East Harlem Explosion Memorial
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EAST HARLEM — Carmen Garcia’s son died on year ago Thursday in the East Harlem explosion, but the pain is still fresh.

“I feel as if this happened yesterday,” Garcia, 70, said. “My life changed completely. I miss my son, I miss his smile.”

Her son, George Amadeo, was one of eight people killed when two buildings were leveled by a gas explosion on Park Avenue and East 116th Street on the morning on March 12, 2014.

Thursday morning, in front of the vacant lot where the buildings used to be, grieving families and community members gathered to honor the victims.

“One year ago this whole city was rocked by this tragedy,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “Without warning a gas leak sparked an explosion… we lost eight good people.”

Preliminary tests suggest the blast was caused by a leak from the 127-year-old pipe. The official results of the investigation have not been released.

During the memorial, the mayor and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito lauded the first responders and held a moment of silence at 9:31 a.m., the time of the blast.

They also read the names of the eight victims — Mayumi Nakamura, George Amadeo, Rosaura Hernandez, Rosaura Barrios-Vasquez, Griselda Camacho, Andreas Panagopoulos, Alexis Salas, and Carmen Tanco.

Thomas Perez, the pastor of the church that used to be on the first floor of the buildings accompanied members of his congregation to the memorial.

Many of the people who lived in the buildings were members of the congregation. Despite not having found a permanent home, they continue to meet twice a week at different churches in East Harlem, he said.

“The church lives,” he said.

As a tribute to the victims, a Japanese Cherry Tree was planted in front of the building. The tree is expected to grow to be five stories tall, the same height as the buildings, said Dimitri Gatanas, the owner of the Urban Garden Center which built the planter.