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In seconds, everything was gone: Family in shock after explosion levels Buckingham home


Katie Mignogna wasn’t feeling great last Tuesday and almost stayed home. But, the elementary school teacher wanted to see her kids, so she pulled her hair into a ponytail, put on her glasses and headed to work.

The decision saved her life.

Just a few hours later, the Buckingham home she shared with her husband, Vince, and sons, Michael and Joey, was destroyed by a shocking explosion that leveled the house to a scene resembling more a pile of shattered matchsticks than a suburban home.

The cause of the devastating blast has been determined as a propane leak. No one was injured.

“Our kids are surprisingly doing really well,” said Katie, 44, during an interview earlier this week. Michael is a ninth-grader at Holicong Middle School. Joey’s 10 and attends fifth grade at Cold Spring Elementary, where his mom teaches fourth grade.

“Michael is up and down a little ... he misses his space, his comforter, his pillows,” said Katie. “Vince and I are both positive people ... we’re encouraging them to look forward. I got them on Pinterest and told them to start looking at how they might want to decorate their new bedrooms. We have to focus on the things we have control over.”

A trip to the mall helped too. “We got things that make them happy, like Legos,” Vince said. “They’re familiar, comfortable and we spent hours doing that one day.”

The magnitude of the family’s loss is nearly unimaginable. While there was no fire, no smoke, no water to damage their possessions, the enormous force of the blast erased a lifetime of treasured belongings and a house they had called home for 17 years. “It was gorgeous,” said Katie, emotion rising in her voice.

Asked about those first moments, when the fragments of the home they’d bought as a young couple, lovingly renovated and brought their newborn children home to, came into view, Vince fought back tears.

“I can’t,” he said. “We were in shock,” added Katie. “It’s hard to even remember. I saw what was my house … the roof was on the ground. It was unbelievable. We just stayed away on Wednesday.”

As they considered all that is gone, all that vanished in a few violent seconds, both could quickly name the deeply sentimental things never to be replaced.

Their wedding album (although there’s hope of recovering some photos), the cherished Morris chair that was a wedding gift to Vince’s great grandparents in 1911, the antique baby grand piano the boys played every day and Katie’s wedding ring.

“I didn’t wear any jewelry to work that day,” she said, her voice cracking. “I lost my wedding ring. I’m so sad.”

Walking around the property after the explosion, Vince, 46, said he thought “of all my hard work.” They had just remodeled the basement in time for a Christmas party. “There was new flooring, carpeting, paint,” he said. “All new.”

He and Michael had framed and hung a trove of car racing memorabilia dear to Vince’s heart. “That’s kind of tough,” he said.

Now, feeling safe and comfortable in the home of friends, where they’ll stay as they navigate the insurance process and look for long term temporary housing, the couple expressed unending gratitude for the outpouring of support they’ve received from friends, family and strangers alike.

Within hours, both Vince and Katie received hundreds of messages offering housing, clothes and food. “It was amazing,” said Vince, “just amazing.”

A friend in upstate New York called to ask if he could start a Go Fund Me page, because he couldn’t be here to help, Katie explained. ”We didn’t really know much about it, we said okay and thank you.”

In less than 48 hours, $71,000 had been donated. “Our mouths fell open,” said Katie. “We agreed it was too much. We stopped it.”

Both active in the Doylestown community for years, Katie and Vince heard from countless old friends, former students and people they’d never met. From Rally Baby, a car racing group that Vince is a member of, to the Central Bucks School District and more, the support just kept coming.

“Are there words to say thank you,” wondered Katie. “We’d like to fly banners across the sky from an airplane to thank Doylestown for supporting our kids, our family.”

“It’s all love,” said Vince. “It’s as if it’s a Norman Rockwell painting, and we’re in the center of it.”