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East Harlem Pastor Hospitalized After Firefighters Find Bible In Blast Rubble

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Firefighters remove debris from the smoking site of an explosion in East Harlem on March 13, 2014.  (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

Firefighters remove debris from the smoking site of an explosion in East Harlem on March 13, 2014. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - As crews searched through the rubble in East Harlem Saturday a firefighter discovered a bible belonging to the church that was destroyed in the blast.

“It was a bible but it was the original book they tell me, with the founders of the church. It was singed but it meant an awful lot to the pastor because at least we have a remnant of the church,” Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said.

Cassano told 1010 WINS’ Gary Baumgarten they presented the bible to the pastor of Spanish Christian Church, Rev. Thomas Perez, who was so overwhelmed he had to be taken to the hospital for observation.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the pastor and I hope that he recovers. I know that he’s been taken in for precautionary measures. When he saw this bible that’s when he had palpitations,” New York City Public Advocate  Letitia James told CBS 2’s Steve Langford.

“I think it showed that pastor they’ll be rebuilding. That this church is resilient,” Cassano said.

Following the discovery there was as solemn procession down 116th Street as community members held the precious bible recovered from the debris.

Church board member Carmen Vargas-Rosa was overcome with emotion at both the profound loss suffered by her congregation, including the death of three members of the church, and a powerfully uplifting discovery, Langford reported.

“Thank you so much for your love and outpouring,” Vargas-Rosa said.

Firefighters were working to remove debris from the basements of the buildings Saturday.

Commissioner Cassano said once the derbris is removed from that area, the investigation into what caused the explosion can begin in earnest, Baumgarten reported.

“We will get out to the meters where we need to get to and the piping in the basement to start our investigation,” Cassano said.

Eight people were killed and scores more were injured when two, five-story buildings suddenly exploded and collapsed on Wednesday.

The FDNY, Con Edison and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of the explosion. Officials have said they believe it was a natural gas leak.

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