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)