By Debra Marks, Ph.D.
There has been a legal battle occurring between Pacific Gas and Electric and many of us who were impacted by the 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno. Many things have occurred between then and now. Some of it has made the news. Some of it has not.
What has not is that the wounds of our injuries keep reopening. Just when an emotional scab begins to form, just when there is a glimmer of new emotional skin, something happens or doesn't, and we are left with a raw and open wound once again.
We have many wounds, and they keep opening. They are wounds that, all too often, are inflamed and weeping. They are wounds that can be ugly to look at, so ugly that some people have turned away from them because they've grown tired of the sight. There is a neighborhood full of wounds, wounds in varying stages of healing, yet wounds that continue to weep nonetheless, enough of them to know that something is still not right here. The chain link fences are gone, but the wounds are not.
The wounds are not able to heal for many reasons. They are unable to heal because we are jostled coming home each night, driving over rutted streets and metal plates that cover PG&E's pipeline replacement. They cannot heal because we awaken to sunny days, once special and joyful, now only highlighting the filth that has accumulated on our windows from reconstruction and repair. They cannot heal because we have learned that we, as ratepayers, will have to pay for the egregious failures of a corporation and its oversight committee that caused our wounds to begin with.
Our wounds are not able to heal because we are tossed back and forth through legal wrangling, one moment preparing ourselves for settling our cases, the next moment preparing ourselves for a trial, only to be preparing for settlement once again. They are not able to heal because, in one breath, we hear PG&E profess their sorrow for what has occurred, only to find in the very next moment that they have tried to block evidence that would show a jury their wrongdoings. We are not fools, and we are not fooled. This legal battle has left many of our wounds open and raw and wretched, and some days, nothing seems to make sense or have meaning because of it. We are tired of hearing about closure, about promises to change, about safety and commitment and healing. We have heard it for two years, four months, 11 days and counting. Yes, we count. We count because, even through all of this, we wait for a better day. We count because we cannot believe how long it has been since our lives have felt normal. We count because we are unable to remember what normal even feels like. We count because it orients us in the many moments that continue to be disorienting. We count because we have heard all too often that time will heal these wounds we carry, and we hope … no, we pray… that if we can just count loudly enough or convincingly enough, maybe time will heal just a few of ours soon.
We count because it gives us some small sense of control. But the truth is we have none. To PG&E and the California Public Utilities Commission, there is no closure for us in this neighborhood. Our wounds cannot close because the only closure we get to have is in a court room.
And closure never happens there.
Dr. Debra Marks is a licensed clinical psychologist with a psychotherapy practice in San Francisco. She works regularly with individuals and couples dealing with trauma. She lives with her partner and their two cats less than 700 feet from the pipeline explosion.