4 dead, 37 homes destroyed, dozens lay in hospitals around the San Francisco bay area.
No matter what struggle was going on my insides; I was compelled and propelled through 101, to the San Bruno Avenue off ramp, and up to the canyon. After each stop light through El Camino Real there was evidence of a once illuminating emergency roadside flares. The emergency services teams had been working day and night to assist the victims in this San Bruno neighborhood and still were very present this day. Orange cones and dust from road side flares swept across the gravel at each intersection pointing me further up the road towards the canyon.
A woman stood next to me as I lent her my telephoto lens to see her home.
She said to me and her friend,
“Yep. That’s the house. Well what’s left of it at least.”
Her friend says,
“You can see it? How does it look?”
The homeowner replied,
“Well it’s where my home once was; now it just looks like a pile of bricks.”
She began to explain to me that she lived with her aging parents who aren’t able to walk very well and need continual care. I feared the worse as she began to tell me the story. The beautiful Polynesian woman begins to say that her brother had come to take her parents out for dinner while she was at work. She looks at me with such awe and gratefulness. Apparently her brother hadn’t been to see them in a very long time and was surprised that he had shown up that afternoon to spend time with them. She turned to me, took off her glasses, and said,
“It’s a miracle you know. I could have lost my brother and my parents. All of my family in just minutes could have been out of my life forever, but instead they were saved.” And as she cried, I began to tear too.
Right next to her was another man who said he had just moved from that neighborhood to Portland a couple of months ago and had to fly down to help the community. He had lived there for two decades and wanted to do whatever he could to help. If he had stayed and not moved to Portland a few months ago, he would have been homeless.
I stood up on the hilltop. Said a prayer, and maybe even said another prayer to then drive back through San Bruno Avenue towards 101. One of the off shoot roads seemed like a potential for another view of the blast but it turned out to not be a good area since the view was blocked out by the Eucalyptus. As I turned the car around, a girl had just pulled up and was running up to the front door of a nearby home. A woman stood waiting with her arms open. They hugged each other so tight. They were both sobbing and just kept holding each other.
I don’t know the details of that story but I can only imagine what had been going through their minds. What challenges and fears they must have faced. And finally they were able to access a bit of comfort from one another from such horrible neighborhood devastation.