The day was October 17, 1989. Rena and I had been married for two short years. At the time I was a painter. On this particular day I was working with a crew of three on an old historic high rise Victorian in the heritage district of downtown Vallejo. The time was 5:04 P.M. and it was quitting time. We had just climbed down from three tiers of scaffolding when I heard a low rumble from within the house that quickly turned into a crashing roar. It sounded like four football teams running wildly inside, banging against the walls and windows. As we drove home the reports began to flood the airwaves with news of an earthquake. Even though we knew there had been an earthquake, we had absolutely no idea of the devastation that was to become the infamous Loma Prieta Earthquake of ’89.
An entire portion of Interstate 880’s overpass, near the Cypress street turnoff in Oakland, had not only collapsed, but 67 people would lose their lives, 3,757 would be injured and more than 12,00 people would become homeless before it was all over. The unsuspecting motorist never imagined they would not live to see the next day as they innocently drove that now famous portion of I-80. Rumors begin to trickle in of the tragic freeway death toll. We all held our breath waiting for confirmation of the sheer devastation we hoped was only a rumor. As I walked into our 2-bedroom apartment at 928 Marin Street #2, on the corner of Florida and Marin Street, the first thing I did was turn on the television. To my shock and horror, graphic images of twisted metal, mangled buildings and rising death tolls were pouring in from every available news camera. Immediately, we all knew that what we heard was not just rumors, but brutal hash reality.
As I slumped down in the corner of our old Victorian style apartment overlooking downtown Vallejo, it seemed as if I were suffocated by all the horrific news being piped in on every air way and mode of communication possible. Then I realized that even though history had just been re-written and life would never be the same for thousands, I began to think of all the things my wife and I had to praise God for. Even in spite of all the things we never will understand, there is plenty that we can still praise God for every day of our lives, even in the face of tragic circumstances, because it is His love and grace that sustains those of us who survived. As I prayed for those still trapped under tons of concrete and rubble not knowing that to a great degree their fate was already sealed, I concluded my prayer with the following realization as I spoke these words to my heavenly Father on their behalf:
Countless victims suddenly realized as they sat helpless in their vehicles, their inescapable fate was sealed, and they were about to meet an untimely death; I imagined in my heart their last words may have sounded something like this:
The end is near though it may seem
no time to cry, no time to dream
No time to wonder what could have been
as time draws closer to an end
I must live each day as it comes
because yesterday is gone
and tomorrow isn’t promised to me
As I grow older and life flies by
I suddenly realize
‘No Time To Cry’
By Van Waller