Gaithersburg explosion victims: How to help

During this time of giving, there’s some concern more help is needed for the several families displaced in a massive Gaithersburg apartment fire and explosion last week.

FOX 5 reconnected with one of the survivors before she sat down for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner.

"Usually I do it at my house, so it’s kind of weird going to someone else’s house this year," said 28-year-old Sequoia Royster, a Montgomery County mother who broke through walls to escape with her 9- and 3-year-old sons last week after an explosion and fire destroyed multiple buildings at the Potomac Oaks Condominiums on Quince Orchard Boulevard.

 Royster was renting an apartment there with her brother and described the walls shaking with parts of the ceiling falling before hearing a loud "boom." The days after have been anything but easy.  

 "Pretty much this situation, you know, having to save your kids and having to save your life, having to go through all this is – like how do you go from here, you know? You have to be strong. You have to be a mom. You have to continue to do what you have to do," said Royster.

Thanksgiving marks one week and a day since the Gaithersburg explosion injured 14 people and displaced dozens more. Montgomery County Police ruled the explosion a result of a suicide. Fire investigators are still reviewing how exactly the suspect of this investigation was able to cause so much damage.

"I’ve been running around trying to replace my license. Finding out where my mail is going to now and having to replace birth certificates and security cards, everything," said Royster, who tells FOX 5 she spent $200 alone to replace the keys to a rental car lost in the explosion.

This week, the 25 families being assisted by the Maryland Housing Partnership received a $1,000 check each, thanks to the donations raised from the community. Other non-profits and organizations chipped in, but more help may still be needed.

"Especially with the holiday being here, I know with inflation, everyone feels times are tight, but the good thing about this fund is funds are going to the family," said Montgomery County official Patrick Campbell.

In a Thanksgiving Day Zoom interview, Campbell thanked everyone who has donated so far. He tells FOX 5 that in about 8 days, around $100,000 dollars has been raised to help the families displaced.

Looking back at previous reports, that’s less than the nearly $500,000 raised in a similar time-frame after the Lyttonsville, Friendly Garden apartment explosion back in March. In total, Campbell says over $700,000 was raised to assist those families over a few months.

"Sometimes we can think of money just as monetary, but the thing about money is it takes away other problems and challenges, and that very night we put people to tears because they just felt relief. You know, they can pay for things. They -- people care about them," said Campbell.  

Different families have different insurance policies and different needs. Royster and her children lost everything. Now their next hurdle is finding a place to live.

Royster tells FOX 5 the five families being hosted in hotels will have to leave by Nov. 30th.

"Very hectic, because you got to replace everything. You still don’t have certain stuff, and you still don’t know where you’re really going," she said, "You’re just taking it and running with it."

 "I’m thankful to be alive. That’s all I can say right now," the mother of two added.

 Some of the individual families created their own GoFundMe accounts. FOX 5 is told there are no fees -- 100% of the funds raised on the Maryland Housing Partnership’s fundraising page will go to the families affected. Checks will be disseminated in spurts instead of all at once.

Visit the Maryland Housing Partnership fundraising page here. 

Below are fundraising accounts shared on GoFundMe: