EXCLUSIVE: Mom and daughter speak publicly about losing home at centre of Woodman Avenue explosion
LONDON, ONT. -- When Karen Fisher and Emma Fisher Steed recount the moments after an explosion ripped apart their home on Woodman Avenue last August, they often reassure each other.
The pair sat down for their first public interview about the night that changed their lives.
"We’re a pretty good team," says Karen as she embraces her daughter. "We’ve been through a lot," responds Emma.
They lived at 450 Woodman Ave. until the night of August 14, 2019.
At 10:35 p.m., Karen was watching TV in her front room when she felt a car crash into her home. It severed the gas line.
"I could smell gas right away, and a hissing sound. Emma was in her bedroom. I told her, 'We need to get out; someone has hit the house.'"
Minutes later, Karen watched from a few doors down as the explosion destroyed her home and severely injured several first responders.
Given the force of the blast, she is still amazed that no one was killed.
Her mind began to panic. "In that moment, I didn’t know where Emma was," says Karen, holding back tears. "I forgot she was across the street. That was the only moment of fear that I’ve had in this whole situation. It’s real, and obviously still very raw."
All that remained of their home was a charred crater and debris blown onto the street.
The last 12 months have provided time for healing. About to enter Grade 9, Emma credits counselling she received earlier this year for helping with her feelings. "I was unable to save my cat. I felt a lot of guilt over that," she says in a sad, but resilient tone.
"Now I feel a lot better about (leaving the home quickly) because I realize that it was the right thing to do. Honestly, it could have been a lot worse than it was."
The pair lost almost everything. Both express gratitude for the embrace of their community. The support began immediately after the explosion when Emma had no shoes.
"It was such a big weight off of our shoulders when we needed to replace everything. So donations were really important to us," says Emma.
Her mom struggles to find the right words to express the depth of their gratitude. "Whether it’s neighbours, friends, family, complete strangers, my workplace, the list goes on and on. 'Thank you' doesn’t even come close to describing how I feel," says Karen.
Karen explains her feelings about the driver of the car that caused the explosion are complex. For a time she felt anger and frustration, but that has given way to an open heart.
"I do hold a place of forgiveness and compassion for the driver. I know that she has a long road ahead of her."
She understands others may feel differently. "I respect everyone’s own experiences and opinions on this."
Daniella Alexandra Leis, 24, of Kitchener faces 12 charges including several related to impaired driving. Her next court date is October 14.