Updated 07/20/2011 10:04 PM
Salem explosion victims remembered with touching balloon tribute
A full week after the massive house explosion in Salem took the lives of five people, the community comes together for a touching tribute. Our Matt Hunter has more.
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HUDSON FALLS, N.Y. – "Losing three in the whole family at one time is devastating,” said Paula Sherman, mother of Tammy Palmer, grandmother of Lawrence Berg II and great-grandmother of Niyah Durham, who all died last Wednesday. “I think I'm just in shock."
"It feels like their life was a candle that was just snuffed, there was no goodbye, no warning. I was just crushed," said Siobhan O’Leary, a friend and former high school classmate of Clarissa Porlier and Berg, who also passed away last week.
One week after Wednesday's horrific explosion in Salem cut short the lives of five people: Palmer, 41; Durham, an infant; Berg, 19; Porlier, 19; and Robert Sanford, 16, the community is still awash in sorrow.
Friends and family are doing the best they can to comfort each other, remembering only the good things about their loved ones.
"She [Palmer] was 41 but she acted like she was 18. She was just carefree," Sherman said.
"She [Porlier] would always make me my birthday cupcakes every year in the same container, which was the cutest thing," said Amber Cary, a high school classmate of Porlier and Berg.
"Larry was so sweet and funny and ticklish. All you had to do was poke him and he'd giggle," O’Leary said.
On Wednesday, those memories were being shared by the plenty. Friends and former classmates of Porlier's and Berg's from Hudson Falls High School organized a massive, colorful tribute in which a few hundred people brought balloons bearing messages to those they've lost.
"I thought it was important to show the community who didn't have the privilege of meeting Clarissa and Larry just how good people they were and how tragic their loss is to our community," said Cary, one of the event’s organizers.
At just after 6 p.m., everyone stopped what they were doing and moved in a procession to an open field up the street. With heavy hearts, it was there they let their balloons fly and said a final goodbye.
"I just think this is amazing,” O’Leary said. “People that don't normally talk to each other are pulling together for the family, because that's who we're here for, the family. I'm so glad we're doing this."
"We knew she was loved by people but this shows how much she really was loved and I appreciate all of them,” Sherman said.
Sanford was laid to rest on Monday, while Porlier’s funeral services were held Tuesday. A joint service for Durham, Berg and Palmer is scheduled for Friday.