RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — It’s been four months since a fierce blaze broke out at the Richmond Metro Zoo. It killed a meerkat and destroyed key places behind-the-scenes.
In a newly released documentary, the zoo’s director and team members shared their recollections of the frightening night.
“This is crazy,” footage directly from the scene on June 4 captured responders’ and zoo staffers’ voices of panic. “This is terrible.”
The documentary showed the fear, disbelief and flames that roared across the site. It’s a night the Richmond Metro Zoo family will never forget.
“I’m so sorry it’s gone,” a licensed veterinary technician with the zoo, Emma Enea, recounted. Those were the words she heard when she arrived at the scene and saw that the veterinary clinic was up in flames.
Viewers are met with the raw emotion zoo staffers felt when they first saw the fire.
“We thought everything in that hospital was dead,” a zoo staffer recalled. “[We thought] there was no way that they were going to live.”
The documentary’s audience hears from the lead zookeeper, Cristen Lee. She remarked on the collaborative effort exemplified that night as firefighters helped chase a kangaroo around the site, corralling the animal to safety.
The documentary also highlighted the bravery of the zoo’s director, Jim Andelin, who risked his own life pulling animals out. Viewers can see zoo team members’ faces as they cried out with each sign of life.
“To have even one animal come out alive was just really overwhelming,” a staffer said.
Another staff member added, “But then one by one, I remember Jim bringing them out, and they’re alive.”
From tears and screams to hugs of solidarity; the documentary also dove into the powerful story of the community coming together to help build back.
“I’ve been crying all week,” a member of the Richmond Metro Zoo family said. “But it’s not tears of sorrow for what we lost it’s tears of gratitude and joy, the goodness of people, the way they have reached out with so much love and kindness.”
The exterior walls and roofs for both the maintenance center and clinic have since been completed and workers are now painting. Doors, garage doors and windows will be re-installed soon, but — according to the documentary — these past few months have been about more than physically recovering.
“We hear of so much negativity and people being so hateful and mean and unkind to each other,” a speaker in the documentary said. “But I have learned through this experience that people are good. There’s so much good in the world and people have reached out. There was so much love.”
Zoo representatives told 8News that construction has been going smoothly and the zoo expects to reopen both affected buildings by the end of the year. They also shared how thankful they are for the community and added that — right now — the best way for people to show their support is to bring their smiles to the zoo.