Richmond Hill: The night people ran

Some ran into, others away, from flames

INDIANAPOLIS - It was a night people ran into, and away from, the flames.

Now, Christina Hunter runs for a different reason.

"For me, running has been a thankful exercise," she says, stretching her legs as crickets call around her. Running is her time to relax and reflect on a year that took an unexpected twist.

"A lot of people thought an airplane crashed into our neighborhood," Hunter recalls.

Hunter, her husband and two kids have lived in Richmond Hill for four years. Their house was one of the 125 homes standing in the neighborhood before 11:11 p.m. on Nov. 10, 2012.

On that night, few knew the house at 8349 Fieldfare Way was filling up with gas, and leading to the unthinkable.

Next door, at 8343 Fieldfare Way, Glenn Olvey wasn't umpiring a softball game as usual. That night, Olvey, his wife and two daughters were up near the living room.

Across the street, at 8330 Fieldfare Way, Michelle Smith, who plays the piano at church, had finished baking two cakes for Sunday church service, and was waiting to watch Saturday Night Live.

At 8336 Fieldfare Way, Mavis Baer was videotaping her usually tame poodle, who had begun jumping on the furniture and running to their front door. Mavis now thinks her dog could smell the gas ready to ignite across the street.

Further down the neighborhood, at 3953 Towhees Drive, Doug Aldridge has just finished watching the Notre Dame game.

Ben and Leslie Melvin had just returned from a fundraiser gala to their home at 4012 Armada Drive.

Nearby, at 4018 Armada Drive, no one was home at 11:11 p.m., when 8349 Fieldfare Way shattered into pieces with an unstoppable ripple effect.

Hunter and her family were camping that night. When neighbors began calling to report the horror, the Hunters used a smart phone to check their security cameras.

"We could see smoke, we could hear people … all of a sudden it went dark," Hunter said.

The couple had installed cameras months earlier due to an attempted robbery. On that November evening, the cameras instead captured their neighborhood exploding into chaos.

The shockwave burst their front door open, and rattled their entire home. It lasted about 10 seconds, and in the aftermath left behind more than $80,000 in structural damage.

"For me, it was a holy cow moment," Hunter said. "It was an eye-opener."

Their security cameras would also record their neighbors who, instead of running away, stopped to help others. One of them, Ben Melvin, stopped to check on the Hunters, not knowing they weren't home.

"I just made sure my family was okay; then I knew someone needed help," Melvin said. "I don't know why I did it. I just did."

"I can say we are blessed, not only because we got to see that kind of spirit and courage, but we're blessed because we've got to know more of our neighbors," Hunter said. "I would not want to leave this community, because where else would you find such amazing people."

Christina says her running route is a daily reminder of that -- though it's never easy to pass the property where a young couple was killed.

"We don't want to ever forget Jennifer and Dion (Longworth)," Hunter said. "We mourn for their families. We mourn. It's a loss … an unimaginable loss."

So Hunter runs; not from what happened, but to what lies beyond the horizon.

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