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East Harlem Community Devastated in Blast Aftermath

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The explosion and fire in East Harlem have disrupted many residents' lives, especially those displaced by the tragedy. NY1's Jon Weinstein filed the following report.

One day after the explosion rocked East Harlem, life was far from normal. Dozens of families are displaced and seeking shelter from the Red Cross and Salvation Army. People like Aisha Watts who lived at 1652 Park Avenue and is just thankful to be alive.

"God made a way for me to get out that apartment. I thought I was gonna die. I kept saying 'Don't you die in this apartment, Aisha. Your kids need you,'" Watts said.

Her family is figuring out where to go next. Her husband Jeremiah Atkins says they're having a hard time explaining what happened to their kids.

"We told them but they still don't fully understand so you know. They just know that they can't go home right now," he said.

A day later, smoke from the explosion continued to fill the air. Health officials said everyone should steer clear of visible smoke, but the air in the neighborhood is generally safe for healthy people, although it could cause problems for vulnerable populations like the sick, children and seniors. It's a neighborhood with some of the highest asthma rates in the city.

"The air, everyone is so afraid of the air being polluted, people getting sick," said one resident.

At P.S. 57 dozens of students with asthma were sent home early by the school nurse after reporting discomfort.

"It stinks too much and then like classes are going everywhere cause of the smell and then I was in another class cause of my asthma and then my mom had to come pick me up," said one student.

"My chest has started to hurt, it smells like gas or maybe something that's burnt," said another student.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education says the air in the school was tested and is safe. But even that was little comfort for some parents.

"I think the school should've been closed. My son have asthma so he was one of the first to leave," said one parent.

Above all though, so many people though are just trying to make sense of how this could happen.

"You think, wow it could've been my building; it could've been us. It could've been my family that died," said one East Harlem resident.

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