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On a festive holiday usually marked by family barbecues and picnics on the beach, Maria Velasquez stepped into a humble gymnasium in South Los Angeles in search of answers — and a way forward — after a massive explosion of illegal fireworks damaged her home, injured 17 people and left her street in tatters.

“In a matter of seconds, everything blew up,” said Velasquez, who said she was still processing the shock. “It was horrible.”

More than 20 homes were evacuated in the aftermath of Wednesday’s explosion, and on Sunday, residents were still in limbo — unsure when they could return home to start picking up the pieces.

Many of them joined Velasquez and spent their Fourth of July at Trinity Recreation Center, where city emergency officials and the American Red Cross and other nonprofits had quickly gathered to offer services and whatever information they could provide.

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