Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel represents Harlem, devastated Wednesday by a gas leak explosion that collapsed two buildings and severely damaged several others. On NBC 4, Rep. Rangel described the situation as “our community’s 9/11,” though Harlem very acutely experienced that tragedy, as well.
Rep. Rangel went on NBC 4, the network’s New York affiliate, to speak of the devastation that had befallen his community as a gas leak caused two buildings on 116th Street and Park Avenue to collapse. “I’ve never had anything this horrific that’s happened in my community since I’ve been in Washington,” he noted, adding that it was “especially” frightening “since you don’t know what caused it.”
“There’s nothing more of a nightmare than to think that there may be people in those buildings as they collapsed,” he told the network, calling the collapse “our community’s 9/11, even though we don’t know how it started.” He lamented that New Yorkers “certainly” feel the same as he does on the matter, “something like this that has attacked part of our community.”
In a press conference earlier today, Mayor Bill de Blasio explained that authorities did know what caused the explosion, but that it was not preventable. “It is a tragedy of the worst kind because there was no indication in time to save people,” he explained. He added that “a number of individuals are missing” but some could be hiding in surrounding buildings or taking refuge at a location where they have yet to be found.
ABC News is reporting that two women have died and at least 28 are injured, with one hospital reporting a minor with “serious” injuries. At the time of de Blasio’s press conference, a “five alarm” fire was still burning from the rubble of the collapsed buildings, and neighboring buildings were deemed “unstable.” The New York Daily News reports that “a dozen” are missing and that neighbors witnessed some of the injured and dead “fly out of windows” as the explosion occurred.
Harlem was among the communities most impacted by the September 11 attacks by virtue of location alone. Harlem artists have contributed significantly to September 11 memorial events and artistic works. Rep. Rangel himself worked on a bill to extend unemployment benefits as a way to stimulate the economy after September 11. The neighborhood is home to its own September 11 memorial in Inwood, which fell prey to vandalism in an incident last December.