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East Harlem Explosion Survivor Who Lost Daughter In Blast Thanks First Responders, Doctors

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Saturday will mark one month since the deadly explosion in East Harlem that killed eight people and left dozens more injured.

As CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported, one of the most seriously hurt in the explosion was reunited with some of her rescuers on Friday.

Carmen Quinones lost her daughter Griselde Camacho in the March 12 blast, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported. Quinones has been at Mount Sinai Medical Center for the past month after suffering a brain hemorrhage, a fractured spine and a broken wrist in the explosion.

On Friday, Quinones took slow, steady steps of progress as she walked up to a podium at the hospital for a surprise meeting.

She got to meet some of the firefighters who helped pull her from the rubble of her building on Park Avenue near 116th Street, as well as the doctors who have been taking care of her at Mount Sinai.

“If you weren’t in that place at that time, I wouldn’t be alive now,” Quinones told members of FDNY Rescue 1. “I have to thank all of you because when you asked if somebody was alive, I said ‘yes I’m alive.'”

PHOTOS: Harlem Explosion

The firefighters were among the first to spot Quinones. Fire Capt. Robert Morris said Quinones was on top of the smoldering pile of rubble.

“We were very, almost shocked to see, wow she’s in really good shape,” Morris said.

Morris and the other firefighters climbed the mounds of debris to get Quinones out.

“There was a lot of twisted metal — fire escapes and parts of the building that had collapsed,” Morris said. “I was just glad that she was going to make it, because we weren’t sure.”

Quinones was in critical condition when she was rushed to the hospital. She had suffered a brain hemorrhage, a fractured spine and a broken wrist, and has undergone multiple surgeries to get her to this day.

Quinones’ doctors expect she’ll make a full recovery, Diamond reported.

“I think she has an indomitable spirit, I think she’s a tough person,” Mount Sinai Dr. Peter Taub said. “I don’t think she’s going to let a building fall on her do her in. I think you’d have to have a pretty big building.”

Quinones’ daughter, Camacho, had worked as a public safety officer at Hunter College since 2008.

Her family earlier this month announced plans to sue the city for $40 million for the blast that left eight dead and dozens more injured.

But on Friday, Quinones chose not to talk about her loss – instead focusing on her recovery.

“We need to keep going,” Quinones said.

Two buildings on Park Avenue between 116th and 117th streets were leveled in the apparent gas explosion.

The blast hurled bricks, glass and other debris across the neighborhood and onto nearby Metro-North tracks.

The blast erupted around 9:30 a.m. March 12, about 15 minutes after someone from a neighboring building reported smelling gas, authorities said. Con Edison said it immediately sent workers to check out the report but they got there too late.

In the month since the explosion, the debris has been cleared, the site has been leveled. And just across the street, a few yards away, there were more signs of progress and renewal.

This week, the Urban Garden Center, which was destroyed from the flying debris, reopened. The center is staffed by employees who narrowly escaped the blast.

“It gives you a sense of normalcy,” said Dimitri Gatanas of the Urban Garden Center.

As for Quinones, she said her heart is full of gratitude.

“Because of them, I’m here; I’m working; I’m trying to get better,” Quinones said.

Quinones was expected to be released from the hospital on Monday.

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