Reporting Alex DeMetrick
BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Six months ago Thursday, “Did you feel it?” was the most-asked question in Maryland. Like much of the East Coast, the state was rattled by the biggest earthquake in memory.
Alex DeMetrick reports a major Baltimore landmark left damaged and condemned has now reopened.
St. Patrick’s Church took a hard hit last Aug. 23. A 5.8 earthquake sent stone and concrete plunging.
“Split the manhole cover right in half,” Father Robert Wojtek, a pastor at St. Patrick’s, explained.
Fortunately, no one on the ground was hit. But the Fells Point church was condemned by building inspectors.
“Almost to the peak. Look up to the right. There’s a crack,” Wojtek said.
Six months later, that crack– and others– are repaired. The heavy finials left teetering have been removed.
“The possibility of some of those loose pieces being so high up, if they were to come loose and fall, they’d go through the roof of the church,” Wojtek said.
And just in time for Ash Wednesday, the church was safe enough to reopen. A congregation that is almost exclusively Hispanic had its church back.
“This is close by to everybody, so I’m so proud and so happy for my people,” Nelson Bares, a parishioner at St. Patrick’s, said.
Wojtek conducted Mass, keeping a pledge made by then-Archbishop Edwin O’Brien last summer.
“We have to make sure our people are served here. We’ll make sure of that,” he said.
Final repair costs are unknown, but could reach into the millions. You won’t believe where most of that money is coming from.
“Luckily, the Archdiocese did have earthquake insurance,” Wojtek said.
And that’s not the only miracle that opened the church sooner than expected.
“Originally we were looking at later, but thank God we had a mild winter and the work was able to get done,” he explained.
It looks like earthquakes aren’t the only act of God.
The earlier-than-expected reopening also guarantees another long-running tradition– Mass will be said St. Patrick’s Day at the church.