HAMMOND, Ind. (WLS) -- Craig Williams is the deacon of Bethel Church of God in Christ in Hammond, Ind. He was inside an adjacent building when an explosion destroyed it, but lived to tell his tale.
"I'm glad I'm alive. I'm real glad I'm alive," Williams said.
Williams knows he cheated death after he survived the explosion that leveled the church building he was in. He spoke exclusively to ABC7 Eyewitness News about his ordeal for the first time.
"I'm fumbling around for the lights and then I hear a boom-pop. I turned around, I saw the flame coming and it blew me out the room," he said.
The 63-year-old deacon was alone at the church setting up for choir practice at the time.
"I got up, looked where I was and rolled down the stairwell. The glass doors had been blown out. I got up and walked out the building," Williams recalled.
The Thanksgiving-week blast left Williams with second degree burns to his face and hands. He was put in a medically induced coma and endured surgery during the nearly two weeks he was hospitalized. Williams' wife of 37 years Annette remembered seeing her husband in the hospital after the explosion.
"All the skin started falling off his face and they had to bandage that up. He was down to the bare skin. It was like, Lord Jesus," she said.
But it turned out the burns and recovery weren't the worst part of Williams' ordeal. He has not been able to return to his job as a forklift operator because of his injuries and is now having trouble paying the bills.
Friends and the church hope to help with a GoFundMe campaign.
Meanwhile, Williams relies on the same faith in god that he said saved him.
"I'm glad I'm still here. That tells me that God has something for me and that tells me also that God is going to get me through this," he said.
Williams could be out of work for a little while longer, though he's already started physical therapy to get back mobility in his hands. Meanwhile the church building which housed its pantry may take up to a year to get back up and running.
Hammond deacon recalls surviving church explosion
An ABC7 Eyewitness News Exclusive