East Village residents who lost everything in Thursday's explosion are working toward a normalcy that might not come for a while.
Five days after the explosion at 121 Second Avenue, believed to be caused by a improper gas line, New Yorkers who used to call the row of apartments between East Seventh Street and St. Marks Place home are staying with family and friends, setting up post office boxes and canceling cable subscriptions.
Matthew and Nora Brooks, who lost their home at 45 East Seventh Street, were hoping to get close enough to the site Monday to retrieve one particular item of great value: Nora’s cat of 16 years died in the fire.
“I need to bury something, I need to have a funeral,” Nora Brooks said.
"Life is going on and New York City is still New York City," Matthew Brooks said. "But everybody has a different reason for hanging around, trying to run errands, tying up loose ends. All those things you don't even really think about you have to deal with now."
Many of the blast victims, including the Brooks, have either started or become the benefactors of online fundraisers to help them rebuild their lives.
Branden Guy helped start a fundraiser for his mother, Mildred Guy, who lost her home of 46 years, where he grew up and first brought home his now-1-year-old son.
"We lost a lot of stuff, it hasn't all sunk in yet. But the most painful thing was all of the pictures, generations of the family, weddings, photos of all the grandchildren," Guy said. "Everything was on those walls.
Guy said he wasn't sure how much money to list on the Go Fund Me page, so the family decided on $46,000 at the suggestion of his wife — $1,000 for each year Mildred Guy lived at 45 East Seventh Street. On Monday night, the campaign had reached nearly $20,000.
“I’m overwhelmed by the generosity of strangers,” said Mildred Guy, who has worked as a paraprofessional at The Neighborhood School on East Third Street for the last 20 years.
She returned to the neighborhood for the first time since the blast on Monday. A small rolling suitcase, duffel bag and purse contains everything she now owns.
“I tend not to move, I stay put where I am,” Guy said, laughing. “I’m not very adventurous, but I have to be now.”
Local organizations have have also started gathering clothes, toiletries and other supplies for the displaced families.
Lilah Mejia, disaster relief coordinator at Good Old Lower East Side, said residents started dropping off donations on Friday — enough to fill a neighboring office space on Avenue B.
Mejia said the organization is now asking people looking to donate goods on their website at goles.org because of the high volume.
Mercedes Sanchez, a parishioner at Church of the Nativity, said about 30 people came through the church on Second Avenue on Sunday, donating clothing and other items. The church is planning to start distributing them today to families in need.
"The neighborhood is supporting each other, thinking of ways contribute and help each other out, making themselves available," Sanchez said.