Jessup Residents Reach Out to Family in Italy

JESSUP -- Italian roots run deep in Jessup. Each year, the borough hosts the St. Ubaldo Festival in conjunction with one held in Gubbio, Italy about an hour's drive from the epicenter of Wednesday morning's earthquake.

We talked to residents who estimate that three quarters of Jessup has family who comes from that part of central Italy.

You may see an Italian flag on every street in Jessup and it's not without merit. Most of the borough's longtime residents can trace their family back to central Italy. That includes Larry Pegula, an administrator at Valley View High School in Archbald.

Pegula's brother Sean manages a hotel in Gubbio, Italy. Through an iPhone screen, Sean showed us his view of the Perugia Valley.

As Sean Pegula told us, he and his family felt the earthquake and then aftershocks throughout the day.

"In the house, the chandeliers were moving, the curtains, a few pictures fell down but nothing, no damage here in Gubbio, the sister city of Jessup, Pennsylvania. But, where the epicenter was, they really got devastated."

The hardest hit was Amatrice, a town Pegula describes as a vacation spot, unfortunately, at the height of its tourist season.

Pegula has friends there who did survive.

"He spoke with the mayor from that area, from that town there, and he said he expects the death toll to rise a lot higher," Pegula said.

"Practically three quarters of Jessup, their relatives settled here, so there's a deep family connection," said Jessup resident Dave Valvano.

Valvano immediately called his cousins in Gubbio; his office in Eynon is somewhat of a shrine to the place.

His family there thinks their patron saint, who also has a lot of friends in Jessup, helped them out.

"They're deeply religious, Sant Ubaldo, who is there in the basilica, they believe again that Sant Ubaldo spared the town.

Italian-Americans in Jessup are thankful that their families are safe and for the modern technology that keeps the connection strong.

"A lot of people that live here in Jessup have their roots go back to Gubbio and we're very fortunate that those people are safe and we pray for those in the earthquake zone," said Pegula.

Sean Pegula's family members who live in Italy say they are accustomed to earthquakes there, but this one, that occurred only about four miles underground, was the most intense they've experienced.

Residents in one Luzerne County community are also concerned about family near the earthquake in Italy.