San Bruno explosion victims remembered by families, friends on one-year anniversary 

Family and friends were among those who gathered at Skyline College Friday night to commemorate those who passed away in the PG&E pipeline explosion in San Bruno one year ago.

"This evening is our time to remember and celebrate the humanity of our community," San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane said. "The warmth and solace of memories have and will continue to be our strength and only the passage of time will soften our loss."

"For the emotionally and physically scarred neighborhood of Crestmoor/Glenview and for the entire city of San Bruno, we pledge never to forget," he said.

A PG&E natural gas pipeline exploded in the Crestmoor neighborhood near Skyline Boulevard and San Bruno Avenue on Sept. 9, 2010. The blast and resulting fire killed eight people, injured numerous others and destroyed 38 homes.

"A lot of residents came to our upper parking lot just to look down on the fire to see if their home was still there," David Smith, associate pastor of Highland Church said. "This event, from the night it happened, brought this community together."

Allan Braun, who watched his mother-in-law Elizabeth Torres die in the driveway at his home on Claremont Drive, said things have been improving for him and the rest of his family.

"Before it was 15 minutes at a time, now at least we're looking forward to the next day," Braun said.

Braun, his sister, wife and sister-in-law all suffered major burns and had extended stays in the hospital but he said they are beginning to find ways to move forward.

Attendees of this evening's memorial wore different colored ribbons to represent the different families affected by the blast.

Some people wore shirts with pictures of the victims and others wore shirts expressing their love for the city of San Bruno.

The community-organized ceremony, which saw more than 400 people in attendance, included a moment of silence, remarks from San Bruno mayor Jim Ruane and a multi-faith prayer led by members of the local clergy.

"The people wanted to gather, wanted to tell their stories," Smith said. "The turnout tonight is representative of the fact that the recovery effort has started but it's not over."

City officials have collaborated with the American Red Cross and local churches to help provide resources that Smith says are still in need.

"People still have needs," Smith said. "The primary need that I see within the people themselves is post-traumatic stress."

Smaller events like the one tonight have been organized by the city every three months, starting when Highland Church sponsored a carnival last October.

The blast touched Highland Church in many ways, according to Smith. The biggest loss was the death of Jessica Morales, who was in a youth group at the church.

A number of members of the congregation lost their homes and many were injured, Smith said.

"This loss isn't just the loss of a house. It has a ripple effect," Smith said. "Some have lost their ability to hold a job, drive a car."

Members of the San Bruno fire and police departments were also in attendance.

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