At 6 a.m. on March 12, Ufuk Bekiroglu started to set up his vegetables and fruit street stand at East 116th Street and Lexington Avenue. He had just arrived from Hunts Point Market in the Bronx where he stokes for the day. Everything was normal, early costumers buying fruits for breakfast and commuters waiting for MTA buses. At 9:30 a.m. Bekiroglu, 42, was selling a 25-cent banana to a customer when they both heard an explosion.
“I was giving her change,” said Bekiroglu. “Then I heard something, I turned right and there was fire, smoke and a lot of windows and building stuff that blew up.”
Bekiroglu thought it was a train accident; the grey almost white smoke went downtown with the wind.
A block and a half from his stand, two buildings had collapsed to the ground due to an explosion caused by a gas leak. One of the buildings, 1646 Park Ave, housed Absolute Piano, a store on the first floor that sold new and refurbished pianos. The shop also rented pianos, tuned and repaired them. The five-story building, owned by Kaoru Muramatsu who also managed the shop, was completely destroyed and Absolute Piano vanished into a pile of rubble, along with all of its pianos.