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Salvation Army shelters displaced from E. Harlem blast

Aisha Watts applies for assistance at an American

Aisha Watts applies for assistance at an American Red Cross disaster relief center at 125th Street and 3rd Avenue a day after an explosion in East Harlem on March 13, 2014. Credit: Getty Images / John Moore

At the Salvation Army on 125th Street and Third Avenue, families and neighbors displaced by the East Harlem building explosion and collapse got up Thursday morning to go to work and school, resuming their normal lives as best they could.

Red Cross and Salvation Army vans shuttled about 19 children to their Harlem schools, and their parents reported to work after eating egg and sausage breakfast sandwiches.

The children selected from an array of new backpacks, school supplies and clothes donated by neighbors and the nearby 23rd Precinct.

"The families had a quiet night" on Wednesday inside the Salvation Army gymnasium, said Lt. Stephen Myes, 28, of the Salvation Army. "They rested but they were still shaken up," he said of those affected by Wednesday's explosion. Myes said the corner building, which has been a neighborhood staple for 126 years, will provide shelter until families and other displaced residents find permanent housing.

"People were incredibly thankful to have a place to lay down with their kids," he said. "The children were really wonderful. It was like an adventure for them."

About 70 people slept on cots in the gym, where they took showers and got clothing. He said he expected more people to arrive Thursday night.

Mental health professionals were on hand to offer emotional support and city housing officials provided help in finding permanent housing. New Yorkers dropped off donations of water, food and clothing.

Luis Rivera, 52, a disabled welder whose apartment was affected by the explosion, said he misses his home and few "belongings. I didn't have much. But I feel bad. I have no clothes, no money, no privacy. I had to ask for a Metro card this morning. It's the little things."

Rivera and his girlfriend woke up when their bed shook and the windows in their apartment shattered, sending furniture flying through the apartment. He and his girlfriend have minor cuts as well as back and neck pain.

"I was elevated from the impact," said Rivera, who was amazed that he was able to walk out of his apartment. "I thought it was an earthquake."

David Mendoza, 16, who lives on the fourth floor at 89 East Park Ave., behind one of the collapsed buildings, spent the night at the shelter with his mother, aunt, uncle and cousins.

"We're together and that's important," said Mendoza, who was able to return to his family's apartment to retrieve documents. "The whole place was covered with dust and dirt. And it smelled like gas so I couldn't stay long."

Mendoza said work crews were replacing broken windows and he was hopeful that his family could return home in a few days, "once the heat is turned back on." He said "it was a shock to go to school in the morning and go home to a shelter. I feel bad for the people who are missing and the people who died."

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