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Officials Gather One Year Later To Remember Victims Of Northwest Gas Explosion & Honor Responders

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- State and local officials gathered Tuesday morning on Labyrinth Road in northwest Baltimore, where one year ago a gas explosion rocked the Fallstaff neighborhood, killing 20-year-old Joseph Graham Jr. and 61-year-old Lonnie Herriott.

Seven other people were hurt in the blast that caused three homes to collapse and the blew out windows and doors in nearby homes.

A contingent of local elected officials, including Mayor Brandon Scott, District 5 Councilman Isaac "Yitzy" Schleifer, and the members of the 41st District in the Maryland House of Delegates, joined Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, Fire Chief Niles Ford and community members for a moment of silence to honor the victims.

Members of Graham Jr.'s family said they are starting a foundation in his honor, called Chase a Legacy, to teach adolescents coping skills and self-esteem. Graham Jr. had a passion for helping others with self-improvement, they said. They also thanked the public for their support during this time.

"Going through these troubling times losing our loved one, our family received an abundance of support prayers and love. We would like to thank the city officials community leaders, churches local businesses, nonprofit agencies and residential Baltimore city and county for your continuous support," said Chala Graham, Joseph Graham Jr.'s Mom.

Herriott's family asked for privacy at this time, Scott said.

The mayor encouraged residents across the city to reflect on the tragedy.

"I want to invite everyone to dedicate a moment in your day to pause, reflect on the tremendous impact this tragedy has had on so many, hold a moment of silence, and continue to shower this community with the love that has gotten us this far," he said.

Schleifer recalled standing at the scene on Labyrinth Road in disbelief, saying he could hear the explosion from his house and immediately came over.

"It was like nothing I had ever seen before, and something I hope to never see again," he said.

Officials thanked the first-responders from surrounding jurisdictions that helped pull people from the rubble and the people and organizations from across the region that donated supplies to help the victims.

Baltimore Gas & Electric said at the time that the gas infrastructure in the area dates back to the early 1960s and was last inspected in June and July 2019.

Residents later told WJZ they smelled gas just before the explosion.

"It was catastrophic. It was like a bomb like you watch things in other countries where they have like bombings and things like that," neighbor Dean Jones said at the time. "It was like watching that in real life. Telephone poles split, I mean, houses down the block, broken glass. When I initially got there, I could hear a voice just saying 'Help,' it's crazy. It's something I don't ever wanna see ever again; I don't want to relive it ever again."

In January, Ford said there was a natural gas build-up and the ignition of a stove triggered the explosion.

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