‘That’s family’: Woman displaced by Silver Spring explosion is helped by former coworkers – WTOP

Blanche Hall is one of the people who survived the explosion that destroyed part of the Friendly Garden Apartments in Silver Spring, Maryland, and left 41 families without homes.

The 80-year-old Hall said she can’t forget the sound of the blast from her second floor apartment. It blew her door off its hinges, jamming it into a position that blocked the doorway, so the only way out was through a window.

She was relieved to see firefighters when she looked outside.

“One stayed at the window and grabbed my arms,” she said. “The other one got behind me and pushed me through the window” and into the bucket of a ladder truck. It was terrifying for Hall, who has “a thing about heights.”

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Rubble from the explosion that rocked the Friendly Garden Apartments in Silver Spring, Maryland, last week. Pete Piringer with Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service said that, in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, a total of 41 families — including 124 adults & 36 children — had been displaced. (Courtesy Pete Piringer/Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service)

Hall feels fortunate to have escaped and is grateful no lives were lost. She wasn’t hospitalized, though she did have some minor injuries.

“My knees are kind of scarred up,” from being pulled through the window, she said.

While the Montgomery Housing Partnership raised more than $495,000 as of Wednesday afternoon to help all the families affected by the explosion and fire, another organization has started a fundraiser specifically for Hall.

Jenna Umbriac, with Manna Food Center, said that Hall worked at Manna for 16 years and retired at the start of the pandemic.

“You’d hear her gravelly laugh in the lobby, which is how she got the nickname ‘Miss Sunshine,’” said Umbriac.

But that wasn’t Hall’s only nickname. Umbriac added that, “Many of her logistics team coworkers still refer to her as ‘Mom.’”

While Hall had a strong maternal streak — she always asked about the welfare of colleagues and their families, and made it a point to know clients by name — Umbriac said she also ran a tight ship.

“You don’t mess with Miss Sunshine,” she said.

Umbriac recalls one time when she didn’t hear Hall calling her name until suddenly she heard that familiar raspy voice boom “Jenna Rose!” Umbriac was stunned, because she didn’t recall telling Hall her middle name. Somehow, Miss Sunshine just knew.



While Hall waits for word on finding long-term housing, she’s been getting visits from her former co-workers.

“That’s family,” said Hall. “I had to fight the tears back, I was just so happy to see them.”

Manna has been working to help feed displaced families at the Friendly Garden Apartments on Lyttonsville Road. By Wednesday afternoon, Manna raised more than $5,200 for Hall.

“It’s a way of showing our token of appreciation for her service to Manna — and just to show her how much we love her,” Umbriac said.

You can make a donation through Montgomery Housing Partnership online.

And you can also donate to Hall through Manna online.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She’s also covered breaking news, education and more.

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