Friends, neighbors share memories of Northern California blast victims; funeral Mass held
SAN FRANCISCO – The five women grew up together and shared high school and college graduations, weddings, the births of their children and family vacations.
Four of them gathered to mourn the one who was missing — Jacqueline Greig, 44, who was killed with her 13-year-old daughter Janessa in a natural gas pipeline blast that tore through their house and destroyed almost 40 homes in their neighborhood.
"She had integrity, poise. She wanted to set a good example, and that is what she did," said Monica Medina-Campos, one of those friends.
Medina-Campos and Greig had met at St. John Ursuline High School for Girls and went on to attend San Francisco State University together.
The friends gathered at a Thursday night vigil that was followed Friday by a funeral Mass at Saint Cecilia Catholic Church.
The caskets of the mother and daughter were covered by a single pall and topped by a cross. Jacqueline Greig's husband James and their 16-year-old daughter Gabriela sat in the front row during the service in English and Spanish.
Children in uniform from Janessa Greig's 8th grade class at the church filled several pews.
Monsignor Michael Harriman told those in attendance that Janessa Greig, as student body president, had a role in choosing "don't stop believing" as the school motto for the year.
"So I say to all of you here today, as you are struggling with this horrific tragedy, don't stop believing," he said.
Friends said Jacqueline Greig's devotion to family was reflected in the achievements of her daughter Janessa, who was remembered by her classmates at the vigil as friendly, focused and dedicated to her faith.
The girl with a big smile also found time to write for the school paper, act in the drama club, play the piano, take traditional Mexican folk dancing classes and volunteer with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
"She was wise beyond her years," Medina-Campos said.
Many in the standing-room-only crowd at the vigil knew the mother and daughter, who made and kept friends easily and lived a life many said served as an example.
Like her mother, Janessa Greig was remembered for being the first to say hello to a newcomer.
"She was the only person you can say everyone liked," said Daniela Zarich, 14, a classmate at St. Cecilia School who knew Janessa since kindergarten.
"She was always friendly, smiling. That's how I always think of her," said Jazmin Gonzalez, 12, who took Ballet Folklorico classes with Janessa.
In a recording of a confirmation speech played after the congregation said the rosary, Janessa Greig appeared to be a thoughtful, well-spoken teen.
"In today's society there is so much wrong and so much evil, but our faith strengthens us," she said during the speech.
Ironically, Jacqueline Greig worked as an analyst for the California Public Utilities Commission and was a member of the natural gas committee of the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates.
She spent time during the summer looking into a Pacific Gas and Electric proposal to replace out-of-date pipes, with no idea that one of those pipes ran through her own neighborhood, said Pearlie Sabino, one of Greig's co-workers.
Two other women died in the explosion that occurred just behind the home of the Greigs. Three people were missing — all members of the Bullis family, who lived just yards from the source of the blast.
During a vigil for Jessica Morales, 20, nearly 300 family and friends gathered at a Daly City mortuary Friday evening to pay tribute to the woman who died in her boyfriend's home.
Family and friends described Morales as a cheerful person with a constant smile.
"She was a bubbly person, always happy no matter what she was going through," said Pastor Mike Allen, who led the service.
Eleven-year-old Isaiah Morales, Jessica's younger brother, cried and tried to choke back tears as he remembered his big sister.
"I'll really, really miss her and I can't believe what happened," he said.
"She was the best sister you could have wished for."
Morales was with her boyfriend Joseph Ruigomez when the explosion ripped his house apart. He escaped and remained in critical condition.
Elizabeth Torres, 81, lived next door to the Greigs in a house she had occupied for the past 40 years. When the pipeline exploded, Torres, a mother of nine children, was with a daughter she lived with and one who was visiting. The two daughters and a son-in-law survived and were recovering from severe burns in a hospital.
Associated Press Writer Trevor Hunnicutt contributed to this report from Daly City.
(This version CORRECTS Corrects spelling for Isaiah)