WILSON, N.Y. (WIVB) - Neighbors living miles away heard and felt the blast Tuesday morning in Wilson that ripped apart the Johnson family's home.
The response was almost immediate. People in the community felt they needed to do something to provide this family with support. Families that know the Johnson's began bringing donations of clothing and money to the Wilson First Baptist Church, which is helping to coordinate the community's response to the tragedy.
Family friend Andrea Rosati said, "We came down here with Thea's clothes, because Katie is a good friend of Thea's and about the same size, and that's all we can do right now."
Katie's classmate Amy Michel said, "There's already clothes and donations and benefits. It's amazing how close everyone came in such a short amount of time."
One church volunteer added, "Obviously they're going to need everything they need for a home."
Young church members are using the social network to spread awareness and bring the community together for a 7:30 p.m. prayer vigil Tuesday night at the Wilson Center High School football stadium.
The Johnson family's home on Chestnut Road in Wilson exploded around 6 a.m. Fourteen-year-old Sarah Johnson was killed at the scene. Her 18-year-old sister, Katie, is in critical condition at ECMC with severe burns. Jody and Judith Johnson, the girls parents, and their son 16-year-old Nathan remain at the hospital in stable condition. Two of the Johnsons' children, 16-year-old Hannah and 10-year-old Sam, were not home at the time of the explosion and were sleeping at a friend's house.
Church coordinator Nicole Ficarra said, "Anything we can do to help them. Anything, whether it's clothes, we're thinking about anything they're not thinking about right now."
|>> Full Coverage: See photos of the explosion, the victims, and the vigil. Listen to audio of crews learning of the devastation. Read stories about the community coming together for the Johnson family.|
Church coordinator Stephen Hay added, "They're a family that loved Jesus, and it's that kind of love that really shines through. It's that sacrificial love that is really present in their life, and it speaks volumes for who they are."
Judy, who is a Hospice nurse, and her daughter Sarah, who died in the explosion, were said to be best friends. The family made a lot of friends, though they moved to Wilson several years ago.
"I always see her running. She's a runner. Their whole family is really active. They're in sports. They're in military. Jody, the husband is military. They were in Germany for a couple of years before they moved to Wilson," Ficarra said.
Thea Hohensee said, "They always had a lot of people at the house, and they were always very accepting of, like, having people over, and there's always friends there."
Katie has been accepted at Genesseo, where she intends to play soccer. The community is helping any way it can, with clothing, money, and prayers.
Anyone interested in making donations or helping the family in any way can contact the Ransomville Free Methodist Church in Ransomville at 791-3855. Donations are also being accepted at the First Baptist Church in Wilson. Monetary donations can be made at any First Niagara Bank to the Johnson Family Fund, or by mailing the donation to PO Box 875, Wilson, NY, 14172.
Below is some information on what types of clothing are needed:
Size 3-4 or Medium
Katie (18 years old):
Med tops and bottoms (size 6)
Size 8 shoes/sneakers
Hanna (16 years old):
Size 8 shoes/sneakers
Nathan (16 years old):
Men's Medium Tops
Medium - Large Shorts
Sam (10 years old):
10-12 shorts and shirts
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