After deadly explosion, Durham leaders mark 150th anniversary, salute first responders – Raleigh News & Observer

After deadly explosion, Durham leaders mark 150th anniversary, salute first responders - Raleigh News & Observer
Evacuation lifted at Cross Pointe Centre in Fayetteville after gas line struck
The party planned to kick off Durhams 150th anniversary celebration Saturday pivoted from pure fun to incorporate tributes to emergency first responders and casualties of a deadly explosion and fire.

The ceremony opened with Fire Chief Robert Zoldos and Dr. Anjni Joiner, EMS medical director, sharing a stage with Mayor Steve Schewel, and included a period of silence to remember Kaffeinate coffee shop owner Kong Lee, who died Wednesday after a gas leak led to an explosion and fire, the people who were injured, and their families.

We all know Durhams had a tough week, Schewel said, describing the emergency scene Wednesday where EMTs were treating injured people, and firefighters, some of whom had been knocked off their feet in the explosion, had their hoses trained on flames.

All of the injured firefighters are going to be all right, Zoldos said. The most seriously injured, Darren Wheeler, is home from the hospital and eager to get back to work, Zoldos said.

Schewel said as he stood at the scene of the fire he felt a definite sense of tragedy and loss as well as gratitude and pride watching the first responders.

Joiner, who attended high school in Durham and did her medical training at Duke, said our community banded together in this time of need.

Although Durham has changed significantly from the nearly 20 years ago that I first lived here, there is a reason why I keep returning to this city as evidenced by the incredible support that weve received from citizens and businesses throughout the city , she said. Durham has character, passion, and a true sense of community.

Saturdays was the kind of event where attendees asked both the fire chief and Durham Bulls mascot Wool E. Bull to pose for pictures.

Alyson Barnes, a 23-year-old doctoral student at Duke who attended the celebration, said the past week has shown how strong the community is.

Over the next few months, festivals and art and history exhibits will be dedicated to Durhams anniversary celebration.

The city was incorporated in April 1869 and was known for tobacco manufacturing, and in the early 20th century for an African-American business district called Black Wall Street. Durham is now part of the Research Triangle Park tech hub and is known for its food scene, boutique hotels, and one of the nations most successful performing arts centers of its size and type in the Durham Performing Arts Center, The Herald-Sun has reported.

Durham is also becoming a more expensive place to live. Rents are rising faster than the national average, The News & Observer reported. Rising home prices are squeezing out people with moderate incomes, The Herald-Sun has reported.

We need to make sure that as this city becomes more and more prosperous, that everybody gets to share in our new found prosperity, he said. We need everybody to be able to share in the wonders of Durham.

Now, its easier to think about celebrating because our city has really come together to support those families and I know will continue to, he said. And at the same time, we have these wonderful first responders, and are also celebrating the incredible work that they have done to save lives. They saved many, many lives that day.

Fayetteville, N.C. — Authorities said Cross Pointe Centre in Fayetteville has reopened after several businesses were evacuated after a construction crew struck a gas line Saturday afternoon, three days after a similar incident in Durham ignited a blast and fire that shook the citys downtown.

No injuries were reported at the shopping center, located at 5075 Morganton Road, according to a statement from the Fayetteville Fire Department. Authorities gave the all clear at 5:51 p.m.

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