New York (CNN) — In the mid-March chill Thursday, the victims and their stories continued to emerge as firefighters ferreted through the piles of bricks and wreckage on the East Harlem block where a powerful explosion and fire leveled two buildings.
They brought life to a vibrant neighborhood of corner bodegas, churches, shops and redbrick tenements whose ordinary rhythms were shattered when Wednesday’s morning blast killed at least seven and injured dozens more.
There was Carmen Tanco, a 67-year-old dental hygienist whose relatives tried desperately to reach by cellphone in the hours after the explosion.
“She’s sassy, spicy, which is why her and I are so close,” her niece, Marisela Frias, said before learning that her aunt had died. “We have the same temperament, c