GAITHERSBURG, Md. (DC News Now) — The explosion in Gaithersburg, Maryland, on Wednesday afternoon caused an elementary school across the street to have a scare in the aftermath of the incident.
At around 8:30 on Wednesday morning, Brown Station Elementary School was rocked by what Montgomery County Fire and Rescue is calling a catastrophic explosion that destroyed at least 9 units and injured 12 people at the Potomac Oaks Condominiums. The school went into lockdown and issued a shelter-in-place order just an hour later.
Parents were notified of early dismissal and were told to pick up their children at Robertson Park Youth Center which sits directly behind the elementary school. Valeria Vasquez-Salmeron and her little sister Alexia were inside the school when it happened and felt the blast.
“We heard like thump as well then we had to go into shelter which was really scary,” Valeria described. “And everyone thought that the fire was like in the [school] building.”
Her little sister, Alexia, explained that the girls’ cousin lives at the Potomac Oaks Condominiums and is worried for his safety as well as the wellbeing of the other residents.
“I felt like scared for the people that were living in the apartments because I didn’t want anything to happen to the people,” Alexia explained. “And my cousin lives there and I’m scared for him.”
One parent heard the explosion after dropping his daughter off at Brown Station Elementary for the preschool program. Greg Stovall carried his daughter Evelyn from the pickup location at Robertson Park Youth Center. She described the explosion as a loud “stomp” and recalled helicopters circling the area.
“I was walking my older daughter to school and we heard a large boom, and then when I got home and started working, I got a call from the school saying, ‘Hey, there was an explosion. There’s a fire and we’re in a lockdown,'” Stovall explained. “It’s scary, you know, but you know, she’s doing ok.”
Montgomery County Public Schools notified parents about early dismissal and the cancelation of afterschool and pre-school programs. But one parent who spoke with DC News Now says she didn’t receive much information about what happened.
“They didn’t really say anything about what’s going on. They didn’t even say there was a fire,” Tanzia Jones, a parent of two Brown Station Elementary School students explained.
Jones drives semi-trucks and says she was supposed to be working out in California. She explained that if she isn’t home to pick up her kids in the event of an emergency, her daughter or people on the authorized list with the school will pick up her children. Today in particular, her daughter was busy and Jones was able to pick up her kids after receiving the vague but alarming email.
“So I don’t know what would have happened,” Jones said. “Nobody’s there or what. I mean this is crazy. It’s crazy. It’s crazy to me. Thank God that I am home.”
Parents and guardians started lining up for early dismissal at Robertson Park Youth Center at around 11:30 after the notification. Many were frantic to ensure their students were safe. Some told DC News Now that they’re just glad their kids are safe.
“I feel relieved now that I have them but when I hear, it was scary because we don’t know really what happened,” Rosa Salmeron, Valeria and Alexia’s grandmother, explained. “Now I’m glad we’re going home together.”
A spokesperson from Montgomery County Public Schools told DC News Now that Brown Station Elementary School should be open tomorrow. Furthermore, at around 3 p.m. when reporter Katie Rhee called, the spokesperson explained leaders were about to enter a meeting to discuss how to help students that were impacted by this explosion.