As friends, family, and patients celebrated the “grand re-opening” in the lobby of Victory Orthotics, co-owner Zach Smith took a brief minute to step away to an eerie part of the building.
One year, five months and two days ago, an explosive device detonated just inside the back door of the orthotics and prosthetics office — the exact spot where Smith stood Wednesday afternoon.
“When the bomb went off, to my knowledge there had never ever been anything like that in the Tri-Cities. I sincerely believe that this not only affected me, my company, my family, and our employees, but (it affected) the community, especially the bombs that were taken from here.”
No one was injured when the explosion went off at Victory Orthotics just after 10 p.m. on July 5, 2015.
When Johnson City police stopped a van driven by Christopher Alexander, who was co-owner of Alexander Prosthetics & Orthotics in Kingsport, officers reported finding “an assembled pipe bomb, as well as components used to manufacture pipe bombs.”
However, Victory Orthotics’ grand re-opening celebration wasn’t meant to be a day of reflection but more a day to be thankful, Smith said. The office on Knob Creek Road officially reopened about 11 months ago.
“The primary reason that we’re doing this is because I feel like this is a community event,” Smith said.
“We wanted to have the grand re-opening to show how we’ve gotten past this and hopefully the community, as well,” Smith said.
“It has been a long road. There’s been some ups and downs, but ultimately, I consider this situation a blessing in a way. Our team is closer, our family is closer.”
Smith could have moved his business away from the location where the bombing incident occurred, but he remained steadfast.
“(The bombing) comes up frequently in my thought process, but honestly it has the opposite effect,” Smith said.
“I want to stay here more because it reminds me how we got through this and how God helped us to get through this. So it’s almost like a testimony to the situation we went through versus shying away from it. I kind of relish the opportunity.”
Victory Orthotics’ building appears brand new on the interior, with freshly painted walls and shiny tile floors. During the remodeling process, Smith even moved his office into the workshop near the back of the building, just feet from where the explosion occurred.
Smith estimates about 60 percent of the building was severely damaged, 35 to 45 percent directly from the bomb and the remainder from fire and smoke.
Smith said nearly all his patient base, including Jonesborough resident Jeffrey Jones, remained with Victory Orthotics throughout the reestablishment stage.
“I’ve been coming to Victory for nine or 10 years,” said Jones.
“I was really shocked by what had happened. We were getting a new (prosthesis) socket made at the time and it was delayed for about four months.”
Despite the delay, Jones remained loyal to Victory Orthotics and visited Smith at another office location to eventually get his prosthetic socket fitted.
“I just couldn’t believe it. Just that someone would do that to such fine folks,” Jones said. “I just want to say how appreciative I am to Zach and his employees. They’ve made a tremendous improvement in my life.”
As far as Alexander? “I have no ill feelings whatsoever. I forgive him,” Smith said.
After initially pleading not guilty, Alexander informed federal officials in May that he would plead guilty to three counts of possession of a pipe bomb and one count of arson.
Alexander is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court on Jan. 23.
ZACH VANCE • UPDATED DEC 7, 2016 AT 10:36 PM
Email Zach Vance at firstname.lastname@example.org