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Family facing unknown after being evacuated

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Far-southside residents Jason and Stephanie Gifford had a cardboard box filled with breakfast cereal, dog chow, children’s clothes, and a toy monster truck, all donated.

They don’t know if they have any other belongings to call their own.

A late-night explosion blew the windows and back door out of their home in the Richmond Hill neighborhood near Stop 11 Road and Sherman Drive. They haven’t been able to return since.

The Giffords and their two sons, who are 3 and 5, are staying with friends. They don’t know how much damage the explosion did to their home and possessions, or what they have left.

“The family’s OK, and that’s what matters,” Jason Gifford said.

Stephanie Gifford said she was grateful just to hold her son’s hand as they went to sleep last night. They don’t know how to explain what happened because they don’t know if and when they can go back.

She said it was a surreal, day-to-day situation.

Indianapolis code enforcement officials determined their house was unsafe to enter but hadn’t gone inside to check for structural damage, Jason Gifford said. They were told they might get a call as soon as Sunday night.

They fretted all Saturday night and most of the day Sunday about whether the damage could be repaired and if they lost value in their home.

They hoped they could move back into their home but were just grateful to be alive.

“It could have been a lot worse,” he said. “But we don’t know what caused it. That’s all up in the air right now, still under investigation. It’s frustrating that people lost their lives, and we don’t know why.”

They had friends in the close-knit Richmond Hill neighborhood who survived even though the entire back of their home was blown off, he said.

The Giffords lived catty-corner to the Fieldfare Way homes that exploded, about 50 to 60 feet away. They said the blast was powerful.

“To me, it felt like someone was shooting, like shooting a gun,” Stephanie Gifford said. “So I dropped down. But if felt like the house slammed down. Everything fell off the walls. Everything’s broken.”

All the windows and cabinets blew out. All the dishes flew out and shattered.

Stephanie Gifford said she panicked.

“I tried not to,” she said tearfully. “But, let’s be honest. I did.”

They quickly got their sons, their dog and their financial documents, including proof that they owned the house, Jason Gifford said. They ran for safety.

All their neighbors were outside screaming and crying.

“Everyone else was freaking out to, wanting to know what’s going on,” Stephanie Gifford said. “It wasn’t just me.”

They found friends to stay with and another friend who offered to take care of their dog. They stopped by the Southport Presbyterian Church on Sunday afternoon once they realized they had no necessities.

They were grateful to get food, clothes and diapers that people donated.

“It’s necessities to get us through the night and get us back on our feet,” Jason Gifford said.

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