September 9 marks the two-year anniversary of the San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion and fire that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes. Last year, we talked to five different families who’d been affected, a year after the disaster. For the second anniversary, we spoke to a few of those families to see how they’re faring.
Phil Perserchio lives on Claremont Drive, about a block up the hill from where the explosion occurred. His house was damaged, but not destroyed. He and his family were home at the time and escaped unharmed.
Perserchio says he’s reminded of the disaster everyday. He returned to his home a few months after the blast, but his wife never came back.
“Literally a week after the explosion, my wife separated from me… and she ended up never coming back to this house again. Now, I’m not saying that’s all because of the fire. But I definitely believe that was a triggering event.”
Perserchio’s home repairs were handled by his insurance company, but he says he never joined any of the lawsuits against PG&E.
“Is there anything that can erase this? You know, I really don’t think there is. No,” he said. “I don’t know what to say, I did not jump into a lawsuit–I know a lot of people did. I know a lot of people a lot further away from me did, who weren’t even there when it happened.”
Perserchio’s kids were 3 and 5 when the blast happened and they remember it well. He says they’re largely un-traumatized, but then “little certain things will happen–you know, you’ll go to Great America and they have some ride down there where fire comes up off the water… We all jumped back and almost kind of started to run.”
He says the kids still ask about the park down the street where they used to play and Perserchio tells them, it melted. He says the kids still ask about the “fire that came into the house.”
But Perserchio doesn’t want to blame or fight PG&E or the insurance company or anyone else.
“Do I really want to be a cranky old dad in front of my kids? What am I going to teach them how to be cranky? Mad at everybody?… You know kids, sometimes bad things happen. It just happens. the rain falls on the just and the unjust. It just happens, you can’t blame anybody. And even if you can, is that the right way?”
Bill Magoolaghan lived near Perserchio on Claremont Avenue. His wife, Betty, was eight months pregnant with their fourth child when the explosion rocked their home. Betty and the children and ran barefoot from the fireball. The family survived, but their house was irreparably damaged by the blaze and by water from the firefighters. The family recently moved back in to the home they rebuilt in San Bruno.
Magoolaghan is one of about 350 plaintiffs in a consolidated lawsuit against PG&E. He tells KQED’s Tara Siler that he’s leaning toward going to trial because he wants to make sure PG&E is held responsible, and that his kids bills are covered if they need long-term therapy.
“PG&E says that they lost their way, so we want to make sure it’s not possible for them to lose their way again. Because what happened to us and what happened to our neighborhood and our neighbors should never have to happen to anybody else. We’ve had to live through this nightmare.”
Magoolaghan says the family is healing, and that being back in the neighborhood is a blessing and a challenge.
“Everybody else is rebuilding and they’re tearing up the streets, replacing different pipelines. So there’s a lot of dirt and dust and noise in our neighborhood,” he says. But it’s also nice to be home. It’s nice to be with our neighbors. It’s nice to be part of the community and go to the restaurants we’ve always gone to.”