A year after carbon monoxide crisis at McDougald Terrace, 10-year-old boy reflects on how it impacted his year

Wednesday, December 23, 2020
1 year later, young boy still shaken by carbon monoxide crisis
Last year, hundreds of apartments at McDougald Terrace were evacuated while Durham Housing Authority replaced old appliances believed to be the source of the harmful gas.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Just days away from the new year and 10-year-old Tyrell Williams is ready to walk away from 2020.

The carbon monoxide crisis in McDougald Terrace Public Housing before the pandemic hit turned his life upside down, and still effects his mood.

WATCH: ABC11's investigative special on the state of public housing in Durham

Recently, ABC11's Tim Pulliam caught up with the 4th grader.

Tim: What do you want me to know about how this year has been for you?

Tyrell: It's been ok.

Back in January, Tyrell, his mother, and three brothers were forced to move into a motel.

Nearly, 360 apartments at McDougald Terrace were evacuated for months while Durham Housing Authority replaced old appliances believed to be the source of the harmful gas.

Tyrell's family finally returned home in May.

Tyrell: I like being back at home. But I don't like living out there.

Tim: Why don't you like living out there?

Tyrell: They shoot a lot.

Tim: When did you hear shootings?

Tyrell: A couple of days ago, they shot up this car and this car crashed into another car. Make me feel bad.

Tim: Why?

Tyrell: Because they are not doing the right thing.

Tim: Do you feel safe in McDougald Terrace?

Tyrell: No.

Tyrell's safety concerns add another layer to his struggles with remote school learning during the pandemic. His mother says he won't focus, often signing off of his school-issued computer.

Tim: When you get bored what do you do?

Tyrell: I stop paying attention.

Each morning at 8:45, his 4th grade teacher Miss Eubanks picks him up and takes him to Burton Elementary for personal tutoring in math and reading.

The extra effort is to lessen Tyrell's achievement gap aggravated by the pandemic.

Tyrell says he misses his classmates but the personal attention helps. As well as martial arts.

Freddie McNeil, owner of Sidekicks Academy in Durham, teaches Taekwondo to Tyrell each week, along with other boys from McDougald Terrace.

"I hope Tyrell takes away discipline, focus, self-confidence and self-control," McNeil said. "And if he can take those things with him. Tyrell is going to be successful. He's an intelligent young man. He's just going to need the extra support."

Tim: Do you feel safe in your apartment?

Tyrell: Uh..so far..kind of.

Tim: Sometimes you feel safe. Sometimes you don't? Tell me why?

Tyrell: Because we don't know if they fixed the heater in our house from the carbon monoxide.

Tyrell's confidence in the conclusion of this crisis is still shaken a year later. The long-term impact on his well-being is still unknown.

Durham Housing Authority said they spent $10 million dollars on total repairs for the carbon monoxide emergency at McDougald Terrace.