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Maintenance manager Don DuBois stands in the 3rd floor hallway of north campus on November 18, 2017. Photo by Reid Westrem.

August 2 Stories Podcast

August 2 Stories is a Talon podcast series designed to allow members of the Minnehaha Academy community that were in north campus when the explosion occurred on August 2, 2017 to tell their stories. The series is hosted by M.A. senior Emma Melling.

August 2 Stories #9: Dave Cairns

This episode features Minnehaha parent and Executive Director of Covenant Pines Ministries, Dave Cairns. Cairns was in his office in the Northwest Conference house (located on the north end of the back parking lot at north campus) when the explosion happened. He yelled for someone to call 911, then ran into the cloud of debris spewing from the rubble, ready to start looking for survivors and help in any way he could. This interview was recorded on March 19, 2018.


“I yelled, ‘Call 911!’ then ran out the back door towards the school,” said Dave Cairns. “It was kind of crazy. As I approached it, you couldn’t see anything, there was just a cloud of smoke, debris coming down. It was like walking into a fog; I couldn’t see anything, I started yelling.”

August 2 Stories #8: Nancy Cripe, Sam Terfa and Jonathan Bird

This episode features science teacher Nancy Cripe and technology support employees Sam Terfa and Jonathan Bird. Cripe, Terfa and Bird were together in the library computer lab when the explosion happened, and together they watched as the library floor fell away after the blast. This interview was recorded on February 26, 2018.


“You always know that you could die any instant, but to realize, ‘Oh, you were actually really close,'” said Sam Terfa. 

“My only ten minutes of school all summer, and I was there during the explosion,” said Nancy Cripe. “It reminded me again that life is a gift, it is a precious gift, and to make our days count.”

“I realized, looking up, that all of a sudden the ceiling was starting to give way,” said Jonathan Bird. “I could see chunks of metal and brick starting to fall to the ground. I swore it was an earthquake, because you could feel it.”

August 2 Stories #7: Josh Thurow

This episode features Minnehaha Athletic Director Josh Thurow, who was in the gym at north campus when the explosion happened. In this interview, Thurow reflects on having gone through this experience with his girls’ basketball team and how he has moved forward personally. This interview was recorded on January 29, 2018.


“It was followed up by an earthquake that we felt under our feet that I felt for an extended amount of time, probably five more seconds, and then another explosion that sounded electrical and then all the power went out,” said Josh Thurow. 


A map of north campus, located at 3100 W River Parkway, with the August 2 explosion site in the center. Each number represents a different individual and their location, coordinating with the number podcast episode they were interviewed in. For example, #1 shows the location of Don Dubois, #2 Mary Kate Fretheim, and so on.

August 2 Stories #6: Diane Hallberg and Karen Lutgen

This episode features band/orchestra teacher Diane Hallberg and choir teacher Karen Lutgen. Both Hallberg and Lutgen were in their offices in the fine arts wing of north campus when the explosion happened, but didn’t realize the full extent of the destruction until they went outside and saw the gaping hole in the building. This interview was recorded on January 25, 2018.


“We could see the hole in the building,” said Karen Lutgen. “There wasn’t a bunch of flames, there wasn’t a bunch of smoke. It was just…the building was gone.”

“I think in our Christian environment, we are so focused on giving, giving, giving, and doing for other people,” said Diane Hallberg. “I found myself on the opposite end of that; I needed to receive help. I needed to receive grace and patience from other people….That was very humbling for me to accept grace from other people.”

August 2 Stories #5: Kristin Overton

This episode features Minnehaha college and guidance counselor Kristen Overton, who was in her office meeting with a student when the explosion happened. Overton was pregnant at the time but has since delivered a healthy baby boy. This interview was recorded on December 5, 2017.


“From that moment until we got out of the building, everything looked black and white to me,” said Kristin Overton. “I don’t remember seeing color, which is a really strange thing. My memory is completely in black and white.”

August 2 Stories #4: Donna Harris

This episode features Minnehaha Academy President Dr. Donna Harris, who was thrown to her office floor when the explosion happened and then escaped through her window onto the roof. This interview was recorded on December 4, 2017.


“[My husband] grabbed me and he said, ‘We are going to kiss goodbye because this might be the last time I see you,'” said Donna Harris. “He never says things like that, and I remember getting in my car and feeling a sense of foreboding.”

August 2 Stories #3: Curt Bjorlin

Our guest for episode #3 is Buildings Supervisor Curt Bjorlin, who heard about the gas leak over his radio and then tried to warn his other colleagues to leave the building. Bjorlin was near the main office area when the explosion happened. This interview was recorded on October 26, 2017.


“I was knocked out,” said Curt Bjorlin. “The blast and all the debris hit the back side of me. I had a pair of shorts on that day, so from my knees down got cut up pretty badly. I had over 130 cuts on me, all on the backside. My hearing has definitely been affected. I got a concussion…my eyesight was affected a little bit. The whole backside of my body was all bruised.”

August 2 Stories #2: Mary Kate Fretheim

This episode features Administration Assistant Mary Kate Fretheim, who heard Don DuBois’ call to “get out” and then tried to warn others. She was in the student services office off of senior hallway when the building blew. This interview was recorded on September 26, 2017.


“That’s when the explosion happened,” said Mary Kate Fretheim. “I remember it went slow motion. It was the loudest thing I’d ever heard and I remember thinking ‘What is that?’ and hearing a couple of people scream. The next thing I knew I was on the floor and it was dark.”

August 2 Stories #1: Don DuBois

This episode features Maintenance Manager Don DuBois, who was in north campus when the explosion occurred and ran through the building warning others to get out. He has since been called a hero. This interview was recorded on September 28, 2017.


“I don’t really consider myself a hero, and…even now I can feel the emotions coming up,” said Don DuBois. “I don’t consider myself a hero. It’s just part of the job.”