Just before Thanksgiving, it’s been a week of uncertainty and emergency in Franklin
|Published: 11-21-2023 1:58 PM
In the Central Street Laundromat, thirteen turkeys will fill tables alongside washers and driers this Wednesday. Franklin’s mayor-elect Desiree McLaughlin has been making pies and the food pantry is donating squash and green beans.
It’s an annual tradition for McLaughlin’s to host a community meal the night before Thanksgiving at her laundromat. This year, community members will gather on the heels of a difficult stretch of events.
In the last week, the smallest of New Hampshire’s thirteen cities has been on a carousel of uncertainty. Last Wednesday, downtown was evacuated after the smell of gasoline wafted through Central Street. On Friday, the city’s former police chief, Bradley Haas, was shot and killed at New Hampshire Hospital. Then in the early hours of Monday morning, much of the downtown area was in a shelter-in-place order due to an armed standoff with police, which ended with a man being fatally shot as his apartment burned around him.
“I’m sure we will have a lot of community presence there talking about what is going on,” said McLaughlin.
For nearly 24 hours, beginning Wednesday afternoon, Central Street through the city’s downtown center was evacuated as a safety precaution. McLaughlin, whose lives and operates her business on Central Street, was among the residents told to leave.
She offered other residents rides to a makeshift shelter at the community center.
“I had multiple tenants that had to leave and I had to leave. I had a place to go, but there were some people who did not,” she said. “Nobody knew what was going on, or when they could return.”
That was not the fault of the city’s emergency response team, said McLaughlin, who were on the ground trying to find the source of the leak.
On Thursday afternoon, Michael Foss, the city’s fire chief and emergency management director, cleared people to return to the area. All residents and businesses were asked to call 911 if a gasoline smell persisted.
The next day, former police chief Bradley Haas was shot and killed while working as a security guard in the lobby of New Hampshire Hospital. He was 63.
On Monday night, the Franklin community gathered at the Lodge of Elks in remembrance of the former chief. Franklin police also wore mourning bands on their badges over the weekend and the department’s flag was flown at half-staff.
“Chief Haas was already a hero when he walked into (work) yesterday, given his service to our country, to our state and to his community,” said John Formella, the New Hampshire attorney general, at a press conference following the incident. “We will never forget what he did to protect our state and his community throughout his career.”
Prior to the recent election, McLaughlin hoped to convert the front of the laundromat into a space for nonprofits to provide case management for substance abuse services. As a 24-hour business, she interacts with customers who are seeking recovery resources.
“It’s what I do, whether I want to or not. They come and so what am I going to do, turn them away? No,” she said. “So why not make it something that people can depend on.”
She hopes to see that vision through.
“This is how community works,” she said. “It was a big community response… because we need something here to fill this gap for people who are in active use.”
Come the early hours of Monday morning, McLaughlin was back in the laundromat with Franklin residents, this time in pajamas, as a shelter-in-place order was issued for the Central Street area following a shooting at a local residence on West Bow Street.
After a standoff with the New Hampshire State Police SWAT team, an unidentified man was shot and killed.
At the laundromat, a handful of people gathered as they waited for the order to be lifted. McLaughlin, once again, watched a small sliver of the community come together amid the uncertainty.
One man was doing laundry, offering spare clothes to others. Another woman forgot her glasses. Together they just waited.
Soon after, news spread that the armed individual was shot and killed and the emergency order was lifted.
“I love this community,” McLaughlin said.