Five days after a private jet slammed into three homes on North Iowa Street in South Bend, cleanup crews made major progress tearing down two homes destroyed by that crash.
It took a private contractor 90 minutes to knock down the homes, but the crew said they’ll likely work through the weekend to clear the rest of the debris from the scene.
It’s tough to imagine what it was like for people in the otherwise quiet neighborhood last Sunday afternoon when the Hawker Beechcraft Premier Jet seemed to come out of nowhere. By Friday it seemed nearly everyone on Iowa Street was left trying to figure out where to go and how to feel.
“You know how long it takes to build a house,” said Stan Klaybor, who lives across the street from the homes being demolished. “And the next thing you know, the whole thing’s gonna be knocked down.”
Klaybor and his wife, Mary Jane, watched in disbelief as decades of memories crashed down into a pile of rubble. They’ve lived in their home since 1955.
“It’s quite devastating,” he said.
Diana McKeown, 62, was in one of the homes the plane crashed into Sunday and was released from the hospital mid-week. She was not on site Friday when her home was knocked down.
Patricia Kobalski and her 6-year-old son were also home when the crash happened. They escaped without injuries but are still searching for their cat.
Firefighters went through both homes earlier this week – trying to salvage whatever valuables they could. The city returned some of those valuables to McKeown and Kobalski and is keeping others in storage.
Frank Sojka’s home was the third damaged by the plane and said Friday he’s still ‘kind of dazed.’
“You don’t know what to think,” he added. “I was in the bedroom there, playing with the computer and just after the NASCAR race was finished, I went into there, I heard this thud.”
Sojka doesn’t know yet if the house he’s lived in since the 1950s has to come down too, but it’s clear optimism is helping him cope with a situation most of us will never have to face.
“Raised two kids here and it’s your whole life, you know? “ he said. “I can’t complain about anything though, that’s the reason I moved to this town, because the people are so nice.”
The city also began offering a new kind of assistance to Sojka, Klaybor and others on Iowa Street Friday. Mental health volunteers and therapy dogs who specialize in disasters like this spent time canvassing the neighborhood, letting them know how to get help coping with the stressful situation they’ve experienced.