BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It has been two months since a gas explosion leveled several homes in one northwest Baltimore neighborhood.
Tragically some victims died, some survived and some are still fighting for their lives.
One of those still fighting is Terry James, a loving father going through surgeries every week and at one point using an iPad just to communicate.
He suffered burns all over his body and lost both legs. His family hasn’t spoken about his heroic fight to survive until now.
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What would you do if you woke up and your life shattered literally into pieces? For Terry James, it happened in an instant.
It was that blast on the morning of August 10 that rocked his northwest Baltimore neighborhood. Three homes collapsed along Labyrinth Road, killing two and injuring several others.
Rescuers carefully carried James’ still burning body from the rubble that was his home.
James’ family spoke exclusively to WJZ’s Rick Ritter about that day.
“I live by a motto: Everything happens for a reason. Lord knows I’m still looking for the reason,” James’ uncle, Troy, said.
Rick Ritter: What’s going through your mind at that point? You get that call and see on the news that his house is one of those that exploded?
“All I kept saying was, ‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus… not my son,'” James’ mother Ann Shavon Guy said.
It was a horror that led to the hospital with Terry James lying on the surgery table.
“The first call I got was them telling me it was an emergency and they had to amputate him. That was the first call I got,” Troy James said. “But at least I realized he was alive at that point. He had enough sense to say, ‘Hey, please call my uncle’ and gave them my phone number.”
Within hours, Terry James lost both of his legs, had burns all over his body and could barely speak due to burns internally.
“87% of his skin was gone,” Troy James said.
It was a survival rate that doctors said was as low as 10%.
Ritter: [What’s it like] as a mother, sitting there, not knowing if your son was okay?
Ann Shavon Guy: You have to trust, but at that time, I wasn’t trusting nothing. It’s like a dream. It’s like a dream to me and I’m going to wake up and he will be back to normal.
Troy James: How can you try to be encouraging when the doctors tell you he’s got a 10% chance of living? But I have to try and be encouraging and tell him to keep fighting. I know it’s a lot for him mentally because it’s a lot for me and I’m not going through it.
But that’s exactly what Terry James did — fight.
The all-star father who loves basketball and wanted to open up his own construction company was released from the hospital on October 7, recognizable again and now speaking on his own. It was a Baltimore miracle.
“One of the doctors actually told me he’ll be able to run and jump again – and I said, ‘awesome!’” Troy James said.
But the financial burden of what’s to come next is unfathomable.
“I wasn’t even mentally prepared for this to happen but to be financially prepared, we have to change our home for it to be accessible to him, that means widening doorways, make the shower accessible to him, his bedroom, entrance to the home,” Troy James said. “On top of medical bills and the foreseeable future, around the clock care that’s going to happen.”
The James family is now asking for the public’s help, while the investigation into the cause of the explosion and how this all happened is still being pieced together.
“While it was a tragedy, it was not an act of God,” Latoya Francis-Williams, the family’ attorney, said. “Our goal is to figure out who is responsible.”
More than a month later, still no answers and an uphill battle for the man they adore.
But even the unimaginable and a burden like this can’t shake the faith of the James family.
“If you believe in a higher power, you believe it’s a grander scheme than just you,” Troy James said. “But I don’t believe he deserved this and I don’t know what the plan is but I’m hoping we come out on the good side of it.”
WJZ will continue to follow the investigation into what triggered the explosion that changed Terry James’ life. If you would like to help the James family, please click here for a link to a GoFundMe.