Our home in the Santa Cruz Mountains, on October 17, 1989, was essentially, directly over the epicenter of the Loma Prieta earthquake; our home was destroyed, our daughter and I were seriously injured, requiring emergency room treatment and months of physical therapy. Following our flawed emergency plan: Get outside, away from the trees, my ex-husband tried to get us out of the house, throwing open the sliding glass door, near where we were eating dinner. He was thrown outside by the intense shaking, and disappeared from sight, not a man of small-stature; truly a nightmarish scene. Our 6 year-old son, was the only one who did the right thing and hung on to a table leg, doing what he had been taught in school. Our 8 year-old daughter was stranded in the kitchen, with the cabinets and refrigerator vomiting their contents onto her. She and I managed to save each other, as we struggled toward the door; while trying to get her outside, I unknowingly held on to the frame of the sliding glass door, where the glass had broken out, cutting my hand to shreds; she hit the frame of the door with her head, bouncing off the deck, cutting her head and sustaining a partial concussion. After prying our son from the table leg, a chair went flying into the wall, right where he had been hiding.

We lived at the end of a dead-end private road, and our neighbors rallied to our aid. One neighbor, a nurse, gave me an injection to keep me from going into shock, others drove us though rock slides and fissures in the roadway, to the emergency room. We all camped out together that night, caring for each other and providing support. My ex-husband suffered Post Traumatic Stress syndrome, not sleeping for over 2 months and having suicidal thoughts. He chose to go away, to a family Health Retreat, Wilbur Hot Springs to re-group; we were unsure when, or if, he would be able to return. The children and I had to move from our home, into town and learn how to be city-dwellers; their dad found peace and gratitude and returned shortly to see if we could rebuild our home. We were out of our house for a year and half; we focused on keeping the family together and re-creating a normal routine for our lives and finding humor where we could (like me sewing Halloween costumes that year and accidentally sewing the bandage on my hand to one them) while we waited on geology reports and we tallied up destroyed possessions for insurance claims. To this day, our family history can be described as ‘Before the Earthquake’ or ‘After’, the effect being so dramatic on our lives. Manicotti, earthquake weather, friends.

By Barbara Bernie (first posted on the blog’s Facebook page)

Quake Memories

I was raised in Bonny Doon, but living in San Francisco at the time and working down in Sunnyvale. That morning I got up and drove to work. On the way, I got into a small accident – actually scuffed a guys bumper in downtown SF by Market St. He was a lawyer and we exchanged info. Really, it was a small scuff and he said he would not mind if it was his car, but that the car belonged to his wife and that was a different story.

I was sitting in a cube in Santa Clara working on an early pre-Power PC Mac when the earthquake hit. Usually, I used to think they were somewhat fun, but this was different. I tried to move to a safer location, but the jolts were too strong, so I went under a puny desk. I remember laying on the ground looking at the walls just wave back and forth and then the duct work started falling down from above.

We all went outside and listened to the radio for a while. I recall one report saying the Bay Bridge fell down. Well, that certainly put a picture in my head. After about 30 minutes or so, we went back into the office and began to work again – all of a few minutes when an aftershock hit. I recall our VP of Engineering saying “I’m blowing this popcorn stand.” and he left. He ended up moving to SoCal to get away from quakes only to get hit by the Northridge.

I began to drive back to SF on side streets making my way to 280. I recall in Los Altos the strong smell of a broken gas line. I got up to 280 and along they way there was a separation of the roadway in the Los Altos area – the crack went across the entire freeway. Up around Crystal Springs there was a Standard Gas station that was open. I needed gas and filled up. I recall that being the only gas station I saw open from Sunnyvale to my place in San Francisco.

By the time, I hit Van Ness Ave. it was dark. I recall it being dark going up the street and all the street lights were out. I also recall soldiers, Navy, Army whatever different branches of service directing traffic in the middle of the intersections on Van Ness Ave. I made it to my apartment on Pine and Taylor. Pine St. I’m told has a gas line that supplies downtown SF. Our power was out for several days. It was really weird/scary walking around SF in the pitch dark. I recall cop cars driving around at night with the alley lights on lighting up the left and right of their cars. We heard that looting was going on down the street.

Many people in the apartment complex were in the building as they were home to watch the World Series. A few days earlier, there was a friend of mine who was going to bar tending school. He lived upstairs and had bought all this alcohol to practice making drinks. Well, apparently he began mixing cocktails for the complex and so when I arrived home it was like happy hour with a bunch of people who could not handle being without electricity. I on the other hand being raised in Bonny Doon am used to no electricity. So while others ate cold beans out of a can I fired up my Weber and took food out of the freezer to cook – Chicken Cordon Bleu. I also grilled some vegetables.

At the same time, I was trying to call my family in Santa Cruz. I had one of those huge cell phones, the phone had a cord that went to a giant battery in a bag. Circuits were busy, but I finally got ahold of my mom or grandparents after a day or so. My father was on business travel and in Denver he saw the news and thought it was an anniversary for another quake somewhere else. He realized finally that it was in Santa Cruz. His flight was routed to Reno where he called an offsite car rental agency. He was able to get the last car and drive to the Bay Area with his co-worker. As I recall, he drove down through Morgan Hill to get to Santa Cruz via some backwoods way.

Gratefully, the damage in Bonny Doon was very limited. My parents and friends have many stories about being in Santa Cruz. My mom was interviewed on CNN when they were getting ready to smash down the Cooper House – she thought they should have done more to try to save that building. They had a friend in Soquel that had major damage and they went to help them. The damage was extensive. One son of their friend cut a wire to a light bulb in their car port – after he cut the wire the car port fell – it was the only thing holding up the structure. I heard other stories of a toilet breaking off the bolts and flying over a bathtub and out the window. Another story of someone’s propane tank rolling down a hill for a very, very long way.

I had a cousin who was driving on the Bay Bridge when part of it collapsed. She ended up walking over to the East Bay side and making her way back home in Oakland.

I knew a woman who ended up dating a widower. His wife died in a fire in Marina District. He was with her at the time, but she was pinned and he could not get her out of the fire – tragic.

After the quake, I used to think a lot about “I don’t want to be in this specific spot in an earthquake.” It was somewhat a fear, that persisted for a good 2 years or so. I used to take the train into SF and there is a tunnel built I believe during the Civil War and it is made of brick with water that used to seep through. I did not like going through that tunnel for quite a long time. I also did not like being in the train with the closed freeway (280) above us. You would think more of your location.

Okay, now for the most unreal memory. My sister was involved in a “Christian” youth group. She invited me to go to this prayer service in Santa Cruz at this small little house. Anyways, people were praying for people and this kid who looked a little high, starts saying that he has sinned and committed. There was a group saying “Satan reveal yourself, Satan reveal yourself.” At the same time, I’m quietly and skeptically looking over this whole escapade. The next thing, the walls start shaking and I for a brief second think – Oh, My God – ye of little faith. Only to a second later realize that it was a very strong aftershock of the Loma Prieta. The group did not miss a beat and believed they accomplished their goal.

As for the attorney, I never heard from him. Perhaps, after the quake a scuffed bumper did not seem so bad.

By Sean Michael Conley

I was on the way past the first level walkway behind home plate, to my seats about 25 rows directly up from first base. I had just walked past Ozzie Canseco and Esther (Jose’s wife) in the crowd and heard a loud noise, looked up to right field and saw a mini-wave pass quickly through the upper deck concrete facade (this was very odd to see a wave move through concrete!). The power went out in Candlestick and everyone was quite confused for a while and it was really quiet, very eerie – we all knew something happened, but did not know what it was. I worked my way to my seat, and the man behind me had one of those Sony “Watchman” handheld units and so we gathered around him to see what was happening.

We saw the Marina District on fire from the helicopter news camera, the collapsed span of the Bay Bridge, and worst of all, the 880 upper decks pancaked on the lower level. It was horrifying as we watched. We then began to hear sirens in the distance and emergency power came back on in the stadium, all the players on the field and more confusion. I knew at that time the game would not be played and headed for the parking lot and my car. As I got near my car, I saw a man next to me and did a double take to see it was Joe DiMaggio! I said hello to Joe and we both had the same idea, get out of there!

I attempted to take the back streets to my hotel in Burlingame, but when I got to 101, it was closed. What made it most painful what that on the back streets, it was pretty tense, people throwing bottles at cars, out on the streets and no power. Eventually I found my way (it was dark now) back to my hotel and attempted to call my family in Seattle – but could not get a call out for hours. I was stranded in the hotel and Bay Area for two days before I could get home. A very memorable, sad and lifelong experience to recall.

By Keith Cupp
Vancouver, Washington

The day started typically enough, the usual Indian summer type weather, warm, dry, clear skies. It was a day the whole Bay Area was looking forward to, because the World Series would be hosted by the two baseball teams of the Bay Area, the Giants & the A’s. The A’s would go on to sweep the Giants.

For me, it wasn’t about waiting to see the game, because I had to go to work at 7Up, 1027 Rosedale Ave, Capitola; after attending school at Cabrillo. I can remember when the quake first hit. It seemed in a sort of slow motion. The first thing I noticed was the initial shock & sound. I froze in my stance, at the entry way of the warehouse, first viewing the ground, as the waves moved through the ground, moving the dust in a uniform manner. I looked to the freeway, noticing all the cars stopping, presumably due to not knowing that there was a quake, but that something was wrong with their vehicles. I looked to the tree line, noticing the grove of eucalyptus shaking like pom-poms, but in a most violent way imaginable. The 7Up trucks, back from their deliveries & lined up for loading for the next day, were shaking in place. I looked up to the top of the warehouse, from the base where I was standing, watching it sway from a normal form, to a trapezoid numerous times. My boss was standing in his doorway, braced within the door frame, holding tight. As the quake was subsiding, I noticed a mobile home, in the park next door, had fallen from its foundation of metal stands. The only damage the warehouse suffered was a broken board in its roof structure & the raise door having two of its bolts broken.

As we were getting our sorts together & the three of us at the plant were putting ourselves together, we were still in a state of shock. The boss, who didn’t live that far away, needed to check in on his family & said he would return. The fellow coworker & I were working toward getting the product that had fallen moved away enough to stuff what delivery trucks we could get into the warehouse. It then dawned on me that a friend, who was a nanny, was playing with the family’s children in front of a large plate glass window, where I had left her when I dropped her off after school. I figured I should make the 3 mile drive back to their house, to see if they were alright. When I got there, the mother & the friend, the nanny, were cleaning up glass; not from the window, thankfully. I then drove back to the warehouse.

As we were finishing up with the warehouse, as I was back working with the coworker, the boss drove up & we hastily got the warehouse secured. We were asked to return the next day & shore things up in a better manner.

As I was driving back home, I could see the spot fires from the broken gas lines. At times, they could be heard breaking & the sound of high pressure gas escaping; the line could usually be turned off relatively quickly. At this time, there was no power, but within 24 hours, remarkably, power would be mostly restored. I had stopped about ½ mile from home, upon seeing a fire, smelling natural gas. There was a woman whom was standing outside, looking on. She was calm. I mentioned that she shouldn’t be around the gas & that is all one can do; get away from it. She wanted to stay there, at her home to battle the elements. All the traffic lights were out & the homeless were out in the intersections, directing traffic. As I arrived home, I was greeted by neighbors.

As I was talking to my neighbors, they asked me if I had been at my home yet. They were sharing with me their experiences of what to expect upon entering; it was more than I expected. Surprisingly, the stereo rack, with a system purchased in 1977, that I still have, even on this 25th year of the ’89 quake, was still intact. The only victim of the system was that a 70 pound reel to reel, fell on its reel side, but weighted down the base enough so it didn’t fall completely over. The reel to reel still hasn’t been the same though. The water dispenser & its 5 gallon glass carboy were broken, along with a plate. The only injury I would receive from the ordeal was a cut finger cleaning up the glass.

As the night had mostly kept in & I was exhausted from the activity, all I could do was to crawl into bed & fall to sleep; a deep sleep. I didn’t hear a thing that first night, after the quake. The following nights wouldn’t be escaping me so easily, or the next day.

By Jeff Mick

I can still feel the waves in Grant Road raising my Toyota truck up and down, over a 1-foot swing, as I watched the sine waves roll north up Grant, from Portland where I was stopped in the middle of the road.

I turned and looked down Portland, and the first thing I saw was the church monument at that intersection swinging. It’s that tall monolith. Then the residents that lived on Portland at Grant, two elderly people. Husband and wife, they were holding onto the garage, but kept falling and getting back up. And looking down Portland (still from a stationary position) I observed the pepper and pine trees thrashing back and fourth, creating a dense pollen cloud that I could not see through. I turned down Portland and drove through the cloud of dust, then Carmel Terrace, and I was home. The kids ran out to meet me, and were visibly shaken. I went inside, all the cabinets had open doors and my wife was cleaning up some broken glass in the kitchen. I went around and secured the area (no gas leaks, and the power was out).

“This is the point that I started my tape recording

I pulled out my trusty Honda EX1000 generator, fired it up, and got the TV and some of my ham radios going. We watched the local news via the antenna, and several of my neighbors came by to join us in front of the TV, as I seemed to be the only one with a generator on my street.

We broke out the camping equipment to make dinner, then as soon as I was finished, about 9:00 pm, I received a call from the Palo Alto Red Cross Disaster Coordinator (Ted Harris, N6IIU) via the SPECS Amateur Radio Repeater that I was monitoring, and I was dispatched to open up a shelter at the corner of Escuela Avenue and ECR, in Mountain View. I responded, opened the shelter, and checked in displaced residents all night. In the morning, Mountain View Fire came by to inspect the building, and determined it was condemned due to structural damage, and the shelter was moved to the main Remington Park facility, where it was in operation for about 5 days.

By Eric Tofsrud

Earthquake Story

I was living in South San Francisco at the time. .. I was at the SSF Public Library near Westborough when the earthquake hit. .was trying to finish up my homework so I could go to my friend’s house to watch the game. .. in the meantime, we were using his Walkman to listen to the game via radio. . All of a sudden you hear screaming in the background and hear a loud rumble and the announcers at the time just like not sure was going on. .. the next thing you know. . We could hear screams and a loud rumbling as well. . The lights in the library kept flickering off and on. . My friend and scrambled under the table. ..then you could hear a crash as the book shelves came crashing down domino style and landed right on top of the table me and my friend were at. .the ground shook forever. ..finally it stopped.. while we didn’t move yet because we weren’t sure what would happen next. .. I wouldn’t say it was pitch black because there was some light outside. .. finally my friend and I crawled out from under the table. . Helped a girl and her boyfriend out. .it was just weird. . Anyway as I was walking home. .I could hear sirens all over the place. .it wasn’t too bad where we were. ..I just wanted to go home and make sure everything and everybody was ok. .. that night as I stared out the window, noticed it was an orange full moon. ..watching the news the next day was disheartening just to see the city and surrounding area all in disarray. .. and learning there were many deaths from the collapse of the double decker I-880.

By Jeff Ah Sam

Loma Prieta Quake in Fresno

I was at my mother’s house in Fresno at the time of the quake. I was cleaning her pool to keep busy in pure anticipation of the Bay Bridge Series about to begin. As I was brushing the sides of the pool and chatting about the game with my mother the water began to slosh back and forth 3 to 4 feet in the air alternating at either end of the pool. My mother exclaimed, “Do you think something is wrong with the pump?” to which I declared, “Hell NO, it is an earthquake!” I immediately dropped the pool brush and ran inside to view the television where the pre-game had been on. Suffice to say, the rest is history.

By William Poore


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