Veda Clemons watched Toledo firefighters climb up a ladder and crawl into the apartment building down the street from her Magnolia Street home in January.
Then she watched hurried firefighters carry two of their own from the smoldering brick building at 528 Magnolia St.
On Monday, she watched those bricks come down under the pressure of an excavator, crumbling to the ground.
“It’s emotional,” Ms. Clemons said. “Should have come down sooner. Too emotional for me going by it.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Demolition at 528 Magnolia St.
Pvts. Stephen Machcinski, 42, and James “Jamie” Dickman, 31, died Jan. 26 while battling the North Toledo apartment fire. Private Machcinski was a 10-year veteran of the department. Private Dickman was a rookie to Toledo, responding to his first fire call. He previously served with the Perkins Township Fire Department.
“I feel bad for those guys and their families,” said Ms. Clemons, fighting to keep from crying. “They go in, try to protect somebody’s life, and their lives get taken.”
The building’s owner, Ray Abou-Arab, 61, of 1311 Sierra Dr., Oregon, is held in the Lucas County jail on two counts of aggravated murder, each with death penalty specifications; two counts of murder; eight counts of aggravated arson, and one count of tampering with evidence for allegedly setting the fire.
His bond is $5.85 million.
On Friday, Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Frederick McDonald lifted his order prohibiting the city from demolishing the building. The order had been to preserve evidence for prosecutors and the defense attorneys.
Cerina Winters, who lives about a block from the apartment building and the Huron Carryout at the front of the structure, said the building coming down was “a beautiful thing.”
Once the fire struck and the firefighters died, the neighborhood changed. Now people drive by and gawk at the building. Neighbors, in the immediate aftermath were “walking around like zombies.”
Still, Ms. Winters said, it’s traumatic and makes her feel anxiety.
“Our community has suffered a lot of pain,” she said, also referencing the death of Toledo police Detective Keith Dressel who, in 2007, was shot to death on North Ontario Street, about a block from the fatal fire. “It’s a blessing, but seeing it come down is like taking their life away. It’s like their burial site.”
As bricks continued to tumble, Ms. Winters watched.
When a large part of the building crashed to the ground, Ms. Winters sighed.
“It’s like they’re taking their bodies away,” she said. “They’re free.”
— Taylor Dungjen