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Bull City Strong Day honors first responders while helping Durham heal from deadly blast

May 2, 2019

It has been approximately three weeks since a natural gas line was severed in downtown Durham, triggering a massive blast that shook the city and killed two people and injured nearly two dozen more.

On Wednesday, the community in the Bull City came together to move forward.

The Durham Bulls are doing their part, celebrating “Bull City Strong Day,” which raised money for the victims while also honoring first responders who saved lives during that mid-morning explosion on April 10. During the game, firefighters who responded to the explosion were front and center, where they were honored for their service and bravery.

“Deep down, I think it does make you feel good and proud to be on the Durham Fire Department,” said Durham Fire Department Capt. Jimie Wright. “I’m proud to be on the Durham Fire Department.

Seven of the firefighters who responded to the gas leak were honored, and at least one of them, firefighter Dan Wheeler, is still recovering from his injuries. He attended the game while in a wheel chair.

“He’s doing well,” said Fire Capt. Phillip Faucette. “He’s got a long road ahead to get completely healed, but he’s going to be fine.”

Faucette was honored himself by being allowed to throw out the first pitch.

“I don’t like the attention, but I’m glad I got it over the plate,” he said through laughter.

The Durham Bulls also paid tribute to those hurt, and killed during the explosion. A portion of ticket proceeds will go to the “Durham One Fund,” which supports those victims.

“This is one of the few place in the city where people can come together and really recognize people for their success and their bravery all in one place,” said Matt Sutor, a spokesman for the Durham Bulls. “So, we felt it very important to do that.”

After a stressful three weeks, the city’s first responders, who were allowed in the game for free, say the recognition is meaningful.

And so is the chance to relax -- and have fun.

“I think it’s a good way to get past what’s happened,” Wright said. “I know we’re ready, and I think the city is, too.”

City officials said they are hopeful the portion of North Duke Street that has been closed since the blast will reopen by the end of this week.

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