Pinkie Hudleton looked skyward, toward the sound of a small plane flying over her Beech Street home in East Palo Alto. Her eyes tracked the aircraft cautiously from the front porch of her well-tended home.
Hudleton's breathing grew tense as the plane came closer, its engines growling.
"I'm telling you, every time I hear those planes fly over, I say, 'Oh God, please don't let it come down on me,'" she said.
Feb. 17 will be the first anniversary of when a twin-engine Cessna 310R did plummet from the sky above Hudleton's home, killing three Tesla employees on board: pilot Douglas Bourn, 56, and passengers Brian Finn, 42, and Andrew Ingram, 31.
Five homes were damaged, including Hudleton's, along with several vehicles.
A year later, a few charred stains from the fire mark where the plane had skidded and burned. Hudleton's carport has long since been repaired and the damaged vehicles have been towed away, replaced or repaired. But the emotional impact has lingered in the neighborhood of quiet, neat homes.
"Money is good -- we all need money," Hudleton said Tuesday afternoon. "But even if they gave me a million dollars, I still wouldn't forget that plane coming through here that morning."
Her voice dropped to barely a whisper, her eyes looked far away.
"I haven't forgotten it. I haven't forgotten," she said.
Last week, as residents greeted each other in the street, they talked about the crash's upcoming anniversary, Hudleton said. Checking in with each other by e-mail, they trade news about who has successfully received compensation for the damage and who still has not.
Talking about the crash has mostly receded from daily conversation, but the healing is still incomplete. A knot forms in the pit of the stomach and heartbeats quicken, every time a plane gets a little too close or an engine sounds a bit too rough, residents said.
In the middle of the block, Lisa Jones' home at 1225 Beech remains a constant reminder of that day's tragedy, neighbors said.
Jones' home, where Eppie's Day Care Center was located, is still boarded up. Black plastic covering a hole in the roof flaps in the wind and the city's weathered condemnation notice is peeling near the door.
"One of our members still feels very wounded," said Heather Starnes, who witnessed the crash and explosions from her front yard. "There's no closure for any of us. You can't, when one of us is still suffering."
While other residents have been able to move forward with their lives, Jones has not. Church and community leaders have donated money to an account that helps Jones with day-to-day expenses, neighbors said, but her home, which sustained structural damage, has not been repaired due to bureaucratic snafus, Jones said.
Help has come in small but meaningful ways from neighbors and friends. Starnes has taken one of Jones' daughters into her home. Monty Mouton, an East Palo Alto landscaper, has dutifully kept up Jones' vacant property, fertilizing, watering and mowing the lawn, raking leaves and pruning the rose bushes.
Jones' claim against Bourn's estate is wending its way through the courts, as are claims of several other residents, according to Santa Clara County Superior Court papers.
But Jones remains homeless and jobless, having lost her livelihood of 17 years. Nearly every day since, she has driven from her friend's home in Foster City where she is staying to the Beech Street house. On weekdays, she takes her daughter to school and then parks her station wagon in front of her damaged home. From morning until afternoon, she stays in front of the house "to keep an eye on it," she said.
"I don't want to lose all sense of my community. It's still my block. I just wanted to have a sense of belonging," Jones said Tuesday. A 15-seat van parked in the driveway used to take the children on day trips, she recalled. "It's my closet now," she said.
Jones gave a tour of the backyard where the plane struck her home. Most of the rubble has been removed, but charred debris is still visible. Colorful children's playground equipment still stands; a yellow evidence flag still pokes up out of the ground beneath the domed jungle gym.
"Look at those little chairs. They're all rusty now," she said, observing a jumble of tiny seats once inhabited by preschoolers.
When the plane hit, Jones' two daughters were asleep in their bedrooms; Jones was in the shower.
"The flames were in our faces," she recalled.
Back on the street, planes droned overhead, taking off from Palo Alto Airport's runway. The aircrafts' T-shaped forms appeared above the baylands -- like white cemetery crosses pinned against the blue sky, in the eyes of some.
Soaring toward Beech Street, from Jones' vantage point, they seemed headed directly toward the power lines that had snagged Bourn's plane. But at the last moment, the planes banked right, turning away from the neighborhood and the hazardous power lines, over San Francisco Bay.
"When you see it go over, you say, 'Lord, thank you.' Your nerves get jittery. You're ready to run and you don't know where you're running to," she said, adding that she and her daughters are in therapy. She misses the photographs she used to keep of the day care's children, of kids on play swings and on field trips and bicycles -- and down at the baylands, where they waved at the planes, she said.
Residents thought they'd have had a celebration by now, a party to rejoice their healing and a memorial for the three men, Irene Silva, Jones' immediate neighbor to the south, said.
But that won't happen until Jones is back in her home, Silva and Starnes said.
"This is my memorial," Silva said, gesturing toward Jones' burned home, located just 20 feet away.
"It's February already, the month of the big accident. That our neighbor is still not back in her home and the kids are gone, that's the part that really hurts," she said.
Silva was opening her driveway gate when she saw the plane fly over her house and explode in flames into Jones' home.
"Every time there's a rumble of a plane you just look up to make sure it isn't coming down," she said.
"I say, 'Lord, don't let me be a witness of anything that drastic anymore.'"
Starnes remains hopeful that the celebration residents long for will happen.
"There's a great reggae band, and we wanted to invite the fire department and the police. Maybe we should do it -- as a fundraiser for Lisa," she said.