Minnehaha Academy gives inside look of explosion damage, prepares for demolition

- Minnehaha Academy is moving ahead with its rebuilding project after the natural gas explosion that killed two employees in August.

For the first time, school leaders gave the media a chance to tour the site and learn what has been saved and hear plans for the future.

For superintendent Dr. Donna Harris, the memory of the blast is still fresh.

“Everything that you would think about in a movie when an explosion occurs,” said Harris.

Dr. Harris hasn’t been back in her office since that day when she crawled out a blown out window barefoot.

“My high heel shoes that I was wearing are now on a shelf in my office,” said Harris. “They were blown off and somebody retrieved them, so I had to tiptoe on the ledge because there was so much glass from the windows.”

Now with the building just days away from demolition, she reflects on fate. She had started for her door to evacuate when the blast hit.

“It was only later that I discovered that had we gone just a few more steps, we would have likely been in the pile of debris,” said Harris.

The first step of the demolition is removing the pile of debris before tearing down the rest of the building.

The school released a video shot about a month after the explosion, which shows the true force of the blast. The video gives the public its first look at the damage inside, showing the stark difference between what the explosion damaged and what it destroyed.

Facilities director Curt Bjorlin said as workers have been going through the rubble looking for things to save, they found his laptop computer last week.

“But he brought it to my office at south campus and we left it overnight to warm-up,” said Bjorlin. “Then, the next day cleaned it off, blew it off, plugged it in, took a charge and it’s still working.”

More importantly, they’ve pulled other artifacts from the building, including the cornerstone from 1912, which contained a time capsule they have yet to open.

They’re working to preserve pieces of the past, but now are turning the corner to plan what comes next.

“It’s tough to think about Aug. 2 and have those memories,” said Harris. “It’s nice now to begin to create new memories of beauty rising from the ashes.”

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