Archive for December, 2008

Address @ time of quake:
1490 30th Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94122

Like many people that day I had hurried home to watch Game 3 of the “Battle of the Bay”. I had just finished riding a friend (Mike Gomes) on the back of my motorcycle over to the Port of Oakland to board a Sealand container ship as we were both members of the U.S. Merchant Marine. Little did I realize till days later how close I came to being caught on the Cypress structure or the Bay Bridge. On a motorcycle no less.

I had turned on the TV at about 4:50pm to get the game tuned in and retired to the kitchen to get a micro-wave meal prepared. At 5:02 the timer went off on the microwave. I pulled the dish from the oven and placed it on the counter listening to the game in the next room.

(5:04PM) It sounded like a long freight-train coming down the block right outside my front door. Now, as a forth generation native I have experienced many quakes. I especially remember the 5.0’s+ from the 1980’s along the Calaveras Fault. It started out as some shaking and I hesitated for a second to get a mental picture of how bad this was going to be. I immediately new it was going to be a good shaker, but not at the level it became. As the shaking grew in intensity I walked over to a (doorless) doorjam and braced myself. Just then a (groundswell effect) rolled by and it felt as if my stomach went into my shoes. I literally felt the house rise instantaneously several feet. There was a sickening groan from the house. That’s when I realized this was going to be something completely different.

The whole earth seemed to be moving in a circular (rolling) motion as I felt the house start to settle back down. In the Sunset District of San Francisco all the houses are right next to one another, and I remember the houses slapping off one another like a deck of cards. Just as I thought it was quieting down severe lateral movement occurred in a slamming motion which almost knocked me out of the doorjam and off my feet. I heard the main floor support crack, and the floorboards under my feet start to buckle. The stove came out from the wall, the refrigerator went across the kitchen floor, cabinets emptied, china cabinet fell over, etc. This is when I got scared. I was in a (should I stay or should I go mode). I started to make a move for the front door for the house to get out and then it stopped. I was shaking in my shoes, and definitely in a state of shock. (That was the longest 15 seconds of my life).

I knew it was bad, and the first thing that came to mind was to secure the gas main. During the 1906 quake fire destroyed more of the city then the quake did. I had several senior citizens living nearby, and decided to go door-to-door and check on them first. Everyone was OK, and I shut their gas off, and asked a few able body neighbors to be on “fire watch” until we all got further word on the severity of the problem.

After (I will guess) about 40 minutes I went back into my house to check the phone lines, etc. as my brother was at Candlestick Park and I wondered if he would be calling. Just as I picked up the phone (which did not work) the first aftershock hit. That spooked me more then the initial quake did, and I decided that I was going to sleep in my car outside.

The streets were dead quiet. No cars, no sirens, and a few people milling about. It was surrealistic. Everyone was stunned to say the least. I moved the car to a safe parking spot away from structures, and turned on the radio to get news.

The first thing out of the radio was that the Bay Bridge had collapsed, thousands were feared dead – the Marina District was on fire and everyone should not expect any help for 72 hours. They literally said – Every Man and Woman for himself!

It was starting to get dark, and just at that time a military C-130 Hercules aircraft did a low flyby taking photos of the area to do a damage assessment. I rallied a few neighbors and we armed ourselves as there was no police to be found, and we were fearful of looters. We got some cold beer, a barbecue, Coleman stove, sleeping bags, etc. and started doing an earthquake tailgater.

It was amazing, but people behaved and everyone chipped in to help one another. We were one big family. Total strangers come together under stressful circumstances.

What really surprised me was that the very next morning there was some enterprising people who were already selling T-shirts: “I Survived The Big One.”

I thought that this was in bad taste so soon after the shock, but that’s the nature of the country we live in.

As the days continued, and real damage assessments came in we all realized how lucky we had been. We all watched the rescue of Buck Helm and heard the heart wrenching story of the boy who had his leg amputated while crushed in a vehicle with the body of his dead mother.

The aftershocks continued for months and I remember on a few occasions that I almost ran out of the house on a few of the stronger ones. I was hyper-sensitive to ground movement for the next year. Any little quiver got my attention.

In retrospect I believe we really did not learn our lesson. To equate that day with the “Big One” is a sad commentary on the denial we quickly put ourselves in when it comes to addressing these issues. With a large majority of buildings still considered unsafe in a major quake, I guess we’ll get it straight the next time around.


By David G. Endom

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(written in October 1999)

My recollections of ’89 aren’t particularly earth-shattering compared to others, I’m sure, but they are vivid. I’d been in San Francisco for a little over a year, having moved here from Ireland in July of 1988 right after college. At 22, I was a grad student in Creative Writing at SFSU, shy and isolated. I was living alone in an old four-story apartment building on Scott Street near Haight, subletting an apartment from an eccentric writer who had left for pastures new in Washington, DC. (A few months later I would be thrown out of this apartment by the new yuppie landlord who’d purchased the building.) Most of the things in the apartment were his–the dusty books, the big leafy plants perched on shelves, the bed–even the phone and the answering machine. None of my friends lived in the Western Addition and my neighbors were older, antisocial types who seemed to be retired, nursing various sorts of addictions, or on disability.

So there I was, sitting on the bed at around 5 pm that Wednesday afternoon. I had decided, luckily as it turned out, not to go to my lesbian and gay film class at City College. Taking the K streetcar would be too much of a drag this evening, I mused, especially when I would have to wait for it in the dark and fog after class got out. I was just resting, then, or more accurately moping, as I often did in those rootless first years in the City. Suddenly the building began to shake. Even worse, it began to groan and creak. The creaking sound as it rocked from side to side was indescribable. “Oh God!” I remember saying, rooted to the bed in panic. Should I run for the doorway? It seemed to last forever. I was sure in that moment that the house was going to go down, that I was going to die. My mother, who’d lived in Southern California as a teen, had always told me to run for the doorway in an earthquake. So I stumbled belatedly to the doorway. Around the time I got there the shaking stopped.

I had no idea how serious it was, of course. Nor had anybody else in the building. My phone was dead, the electricity down. As I wandered around the darkening living room I noted that plants and books had fallen off the shelves, a few cracked plates in the kitchen. I was still stunned–but at least it was over.

One of the downstairs neighbors, a gay man, came up to turn off my gas. Even a natural disaster didn’t bring my oddball neighbors together, though. We all drifted back gloomily to our silent, dark apartments. I lit a candle and lay on the bed. I was reading everything I could by the English playwright Harold Pinter at the time, so I picked up one of his grim plays to read as I waited, in limbo. I felt terribly vulnerable–afraid to go out, cut off from the world. When my phone did come back on I called my friend Elgy, a flamboyant Irish journalist in her forties who lived in the Mission. Sounding exhilarated, she described what a fun time she, her boyfriend, and their roommates were having, the party atmosphere in their house. “I didn’t mind it a bit!” she said.

This seemed to be true of every couple I spoke to about their experience of the quake. It made me even sadder in the days ahead, that no one admitted to any feelings of fear like the terror I’d felt of dying alone in a creaky old apartment building in a new city, far from family and loved ones. I seemed to be the only one among my acquaintance who had experienced anything negative. My friend Denise, another journalist, had sped off to the Marina to document the burning houses. She had seen a writer friend of ours riding by on her motorcycle; they’d shouted gleeful hellos to each other. Another writer friend described cuddling with his girlfriend in the aftermath of the quake. If I’d had a lover, I thought, it would have been so different.

But all I had was the strangeness of being woken up at 5 am the next morning by my stepfather calling from Ireland. I didn’t, of course, know yet about the Bay Bridge collapse and the seriousness of the Marina destruction, nor could I see the gruesome images of the Cypress Freeway that people around the world were viewing on television.

“Are you all right?” my stepfather demanded.

“Yes…why are you calling me so early?” I replied groggily.

“To see whether you’re OK, you eejit!” he snapped. Like most of the few expressions of love in our family, this one went unappreciated by me at the time. It’s only now, 10 years later, and years since we’ve been in contact, that I’m touched that he rang.

Update 2008: And in another sort of earthquake, the family that I left behind in Ireland in 1988 has splintered and disintegrated. My stepfather dumped my mother in 1994 for a younger woman; she moved to another town and died suddenly in 2002, of the breast cancer that she’d remained silent about—at least to me—for years. Although I was with her at the end, I never understood why she didn’t call me after the earthquake, or after the equally shattering experience of 9/11. The world has upended twice since I’ve been in Northern California; now with this global recession we appear to be facing an even more insidious and inevitable societal collapse and implosion. It requires great strength and resilience to keep moving forward.

I don’t know if the experience of these life-changing events toughens us or weakens us. Perhaps the people I knew back then who reacted to the earthquake with bravado carried their own scars, too. Now I’m old enough to know that they must have, because we all do.

By Gabriella West

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I was playing youth soccer at the time, at Branciforte Elementary School (in Santa Cruz). I thought a big truck was going by at first, then I realized it was an earthquake! I was able to remain standing during the earthquake, but several other children fell down from the violent shaking. I also remember staying in a tent in the back yard of my parents house the night after the earthquake, since we were afraid that aftershocks could cause additional damage and falling objects inside the house. Our house did all right, although the chimney did fall down and there were pieces of brick in the front yard. The inside of the house was a mess, with broken porcelain and glass everywhere.

By Sam Swely

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On October 17, 1989 I was working at Children’s Hospital in San Francisco. My office was on Geary Blvd. at the corner of Commonwealth. I left work that day, as usual, at 5:00 pm. My car was parked next to Rossi Playground, on Anza Street. It took me about 5 minutes to walk up there from the office, so at 5:04 I was just at the corner of Stanyan and Anza, almost all the way across the intersection. My first impression was that my legs were getting weak and shaking. A few seconds later, as I made it to the sidewalk and continued down Anza towards my car, I realized that it wasn’t me, it was an earthquake.

By that time I was standing in front of the house on the corner of Rossi, just across from the park. I stopped as the shaking continued to build in intensity. The two other people nearby also had come to a halt by this time. I looked up at the two-story house I was standing under and decided that I would be better off if I was not under any falling glass or debris. I had taken one or two steps away from the house and towards the park when the earthquake was over. One man emerged from the house across the street. We all looked at each other and smiled. Somebody yelled up at the house, “Is everybody OK up there?” Nobody answered but we had no reason to believe that anybody needed help. I could see no damage of any kind. I continued to my car thinking that it had been the strongest earthquake I had ever felt, but it had not lasted as long as some others. My guess would have been 15 seconds, certainly under half a minute.

When I reached my car about a minute later the first thing I noticed when I turned it on was that the radio wasn’t working. I always leave the radio on so it comes on as soon as I turn on the car. This time nothing. I decided to turn to one of the AM news stations to hear about the quake. I usually did this if it was convenient after an earthquake. The stations revel in getting first hand reports from various areas in order to track down the epicenter, intensity and any damage. I enjoy hearing the story pieced together. This time I tuned to one station after another and got absolutely nothing. So far as I could tell, every radio station in the area was off the air. This was my first indication that things were a little more serious than I thought.

After a minute I got a station, Magic 61, that reported a major earthquake in the San Francisco region, a power failure at Candlestick Park, where Game 3 of the World Series was about to begin between the Giants and the A’s, and then returned to music. I kept tuning up and down the dial until I got KCBS, which was getting reactions from its reporters around the bay. The reports from San Jose were the most dramatic, which didn’t surprise me since over the past few years there had been a series of earthquakes in the San Jose area that had been pretty strong.

As I drove home, the first thing I noticed was that all the traffic lights were out: in fact there was a power failure over the whole area I drove through. It was not yet dark though, so the effect was not serious so far as driving was concerned. This was the only effect of the quake that I saw as I drove home. As it turned out, there was some damage in that area. It became much more apparent a few days later when the bracing started to go up and the yellow police tape blocked off certain houses. I know I felt somewhat skittish as I listened to the radio, and others seemed so as well. As is usual when the traffic lights were out people were generally polite, waiting for others at every intersection and treating the lights as four way stops. The exception to this rule was the Great Highway, where nobody stopped at any of the lights, with no cross traffic there didn’t seem any reason to do so. At two of the busiest intersections on Skyline in Daly City people had stopped their cars and were directing traffic.

The story on the radio was more serious. The power failure was widespread. Candlestick Park was packed with fans who had no way of knowing what was going on, since the PA system was not working due to the power failure. People who were listening to the radio in the stands were being asked to pass on information. It became apparent that the game could not go on so they were asked to pass on the word that everybody should leave. The main information that the stations had at first were the traffic reporters flying around the Bay Area to report on traffic conditions. One reported seeing a big plume of smoke in Berkeley, near the library. Smoke was reported in a number of other locations as well. Many of the people who were on the air remarked that the earthquake felt like it lasted forever. They said it was the strongest they had felt and the longest. I was surprised by this assessment since I had thought it rather short, though strong. Then one of the helicopters reported the collapsed freeway. “Oh no,” I thought, “this just keeps getting worse.”

I began to worry about whether the road to Pacifica was open and about whether Liz and the kids were alright. The first report was just that the “cyperstructure” had collapsed. This was a landmark that I had heard of many times in the traffic reports but never paid any attention to. I had no idea where it was. It was only a couple of days later that I discovered that I had been mishearing the term all along and they meant the Cypress Structure on the Nimitz Freeway in Oakland. When I first heard the reports I thought they were talking about the section of freeway in San Francisco near the Hall of Justice on the approach to the Bay Bridge. It was kind of eerie listening to that first report, given from a helicopter overhead. The top of the roadway had collapsed onto the bottom. Cars had fallen off onto the city streets below. People were crawling over the wreckage. I drove home slowly and nervously.

All the lights were out until I came over the hill to Linda Mar, in Pacifica. Only there was there still power. I didn’t know what to expect when I drove up to the house. Was everybody OK? Would the house be damaged? I walked in the front door to find that everybody was fine. The lights were on but the television cable was out so Liz was in the kitchen washing dishes listening to the radio tell about the quake. Soon after I got home there was a report on the radio that part of the Bay Bridge had collapsed. I imagined it falling into the water with rush hour traffic on it. “Oh no,” I thought, “things just seem to be getting worse and worse.” Later it turned out that it was part of the upper deck that fell, blocking the lower deck.

The phone was out and I didn’t want to keep trying it for fear of tying up lines needed for emergencies. We were surprised later in the evening to get a call from Liz’s Dad. He had been at the baseball game and had taken hours to get home. He was fine but hadn’t been able to reach anybody else. It took a couple of days to finally establish contact with everybody and make sure that they were OK. It turned out to be easier to call Colorado than to make local calls, so I communicated with the people I couldn’t reach through my sister in Boulder.

When I finally reached my parents they reported that their house had lost a lot of plaster, things had fallen off the shelves and they generally had quite a mess. They live in Stanford, much closer to the epicenter than Pacifica. They reported that dishes fell off of a shelf and crashed onto the counter directly below. The house must have shifted back under them while they were in the air! The TV fell off of its stand, but didn’t break. They took a while to get cleaned up but had no major damage, luckily. When I reached my brother in Los Angeles we were cut off in mid call.

Liz reported that when the quake hit she gathered all the kids together in the hall to ride it out. Some of the kids were scared. Jenny thought that somebody was shaking her from behind at first. For months afterwards Robbie, who was two at the time, kept saying that he didn’t want there to be an earthquake. One pot fell over in the kitchen but there was no damage to the house. When I got home some of the day care kids were still there because their mom had been delayed. We had to keep reassuring them that she was just delayed and would come. Finally she called. It turned out that she had been in downtown San Francisco at the time and had had a hard time getting back out here. Another friend spent most of the night getting back from Oakland. We had to turn off the radio because it seemed to be scaring the kids. To tell the truth it scared me too. But we turned it back on after they were asleep.

Later on in the evening we realized that we could get some TV reception without the cable so we turned it on and saw very fuzzy pictures of the Marina in ruins. For the next few days the television showed pictures of the few areas that suffered heavy damage constantly, but did not show the areas that were not damaged. I resented the media stars such as Geraldo and Tom Brokaw that descended on the Bay Area to capitalize on the suffering.

I was not sure whether to go to work the next day. The radio said not to but I had seen that there was no damage to the areas I would have to drive through. I knew that the roads I took were not congested and were open. I also knew that it was a critical time for the payroll, there was a lot of work to do to make sure that everybody got paid on time. I called early in the morning, and much to my surprise I got through and Jack, my boss, answered the phone. He said that the computer had been able to process the payroll and that if I could make it I should come in. Liz didn’t want me to go, but I thought that I should go since I was needed at work. I also thought that it was important to reestablish a normal routine rather than dwelling on the earthquake.

Most people did show up. My office was completely undamaged, but the offices down the hall were closed because files had tipped over and light fixtures had fallen. I got in rather late because it took longer than normal to get out of the house. We spent a lot of time talking about the earthquake, but we also worked. One woman was banged up pretty badly when she fell down the stairs. Months later she still wasn’t working full-time. We got the payroll out on schedule.

I was also attending night school at Golden Gate University, downtown. The school was closed for about a week. When I got back I discovered that the old wing of that building was closed. Months later it was still blocked off. The buildings on either side were also badly damaged and at least one of them was eventually torn down. The building across Mission Street was closed for a time too. I was nervous going down there but I wasn’t about to quit school because of it so I went. Coming home at night I couldn’t use 280, as I had previously, because it was shut down. Instead I got onto Bayshore at 4th Street. This was the first exit that was open this side of the bridge. It was a strange feeling to get up on the freeway and have nobody else coming down the road. Things like that kept the earthquake fresh in my mind for a long time.

After the Bay Bridge opened it was still months before either Liz or I wanted to go across. In the best of times I have been uncomfortable on that bridge because of the narrow lanes and sheer volume of traffic. When we did finally take a trip that required us to go across, I looked for the section that had fallen and breathed a sigh of relief when we finally got across. I’m not saying that such fears are rational, but I think that they were not uncommon.

Around my work there were a number of houses that showed some damage, from cracks in the plaster to fallen chimneys. The yellow tape that the police put up around each damaged building and the signs certifying buildings safe or not from the public works department were a lot more dramatic than the actual damage in most cases.

All in all I was lucky in the earthquake, having suffered no actual damage at all. There was, however, an emotional toll that took some months to go away, maybe it never will. It all seems so unreal to me to be in the middle of a disaster and yet not really affected. This one was not so large. Next time is liable to be much worse. I am not looking forward to it.

By Dan Goldstein

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I was on the 37th floor of an office building in San Francisco the evening of the earthquake. Most people had left the office to go watch the game, both the Giants and the A’s were in the World Series. I was still there because I was waiting for everyone to clear out so I could secretly make a copy of my resume for a job interview I had the next day.

I was just headed into the copy room to make my copies when all the file cabinet drawers started opening and closing. It was more of a swaying than a shaking, those big, tall buildings are built on a roller foundation system. It kind of makes an earthquake feel like a sailboat ride on choppy waters, the swaying continues long after the quake stops.

At the time, I was bummed that I didn’t get that copy made before the electricity went out, but very happy my resume wasn’t stuck inside the copier to be found later by my co-workers.

No electricity meant the elevators weren’t running either. I would later find out it was great luck not to be IN one when the quake hit–those people were trapped inside for hours! Thus began my resolution to never get in an elevator if I even remotely have to go to the bathroom.

I made my way down 37 flights of stairs with strangers from the rest of the building, round and round, down and down–if you looked anywhere except down at the stairs, you got dizzy. You couldn’t really stop and take a break because you would cause everyone behind you to stop. It was a real team effort to get down those stairs, but everyone was making jokes and laughing with one another.

I was so surprised to see all the debris and buckled sidewalks when I got outside, I had figured we just felt exaggerated effects of a small quake, being in a building with roller foundations. I had no idea how big it really was.

After finally giving up on the bus and the prospect of a cab ride, a friend and I decided to walk home. It was a beautiful evening in the city and everyone was out walking around. As we walked, people were sitting outside on the front doorsteps of their buildings, a few offering us a beer as we passed by. It was strange; people were kind of giddy. It was almost like a big block party.

We wound up taking a ride with a passerby in a Mercedes, something I would NEVER do in real life. He was getting some news from a friend on his car phone (anyone remember those?), and said he would drop us as far as Divisadero Street, on his way over to the Marina. We could see the smoke of fires there in the distance. He told us that his friend said the Bay Bridge collapsed. We all had visions of the whole thing collapsing, but didn’t really believe it.

When I got home, my friend Kim, from San Jose called me to see if we were ok. When I told her my husband was driving home over the Golden Gate Bridge she was really worried. She told me to call him and tell him to stay over in Marin–she was worried about that bridge too. But he was already on his way; we didn’t have car phones, so had no way of reaching each other.

Since none of our friends that lived in the East Bay could get home, we had a big slumber party at our house. We had a little, tiny, battery powered TV and a number of us were gathered around to watch that evening’s episode of “Thirty-something.” We were all so bummed when it wasn’t on and we could only receive news of the quake. We thought the whole nation was getting to watch an episode that we were missing! We had no idea that they were all watching our local news with us.

By Sydney Lagier

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I was driving my small sports car down 41st Ave. in Capitola, having just knocked off from my temp job at the O’Neill (of the surf shop and wetsuits) corporate office. All of a sudden I felt a very strange sensation – like both of my axles had buckled – and the car was shimmying and shaking beneath me. At first I thought that my tires had blown out, and I pulled over to the side of the road and stopped. The rumbling and shaking continued however, and that’s when I noticed that the metal street lights overhead were swaying, and I heard loud popping and the sound of breaking glass. The lights were exploding and the glass was falling down onto the pavement. I’m ashamed to admit that, as the realization dawned that it was an earthquake, my next thought was relief that my tires were OK.

After the earth settled down, I continued down 41st Ave. and saw that the traffic lights were out. Everyone was driving very slowly and treating the intersections like 4-way stops. I remember being impressed that everyone was being so cooperative and careful. As I continued through the residential streets, I saw that every chimney I passed had collapsed into a pile of rubble. I was getting more and more apprehensive about what I would find when I got home.

I lived in a condo on the second floor. When I opened my front door, I stepped into mayhem. Bookshelves were overturned, spilling books, plants, and knic-knacks all over the floor. When I entered the kitchen, it looked like a Bosch painting – the refrigerator door had come open and food and beverage containers were broken and spilled everywhere, leaving a stew of milk, tomato juice, wine, leftover pasta, mayonnaise, beer, and broken glass all over the floor. The cabinet doors had come open and dishes, glassware, canned goods, and everything else that you store in a kitchen was dumped all over the countertops and added to the gumbo on the floor. Even the drawers had shimmied open and onto the floor, along with all their contents. I couldn’t even get into the bedroom because a large armoir had fallen in front of the door. Pictures and heavy mirrors had fallen from the walls, leaving shattered glass everywhere. As I was taking all this in, the floor started shaking and swaying from an aftershock, and I decided I’d better get the hell out. Not a hard decision, after observing the train wreck that used to be home.

I went to the courtyard area of the complex, where several people had gathered. Everyone was shaken up and talking nervously about the quake, and wondering where it was centered, how big it was, and if we’d seen the worst of it yet. Someone came with a portable TV and turned it on to a national news program. At this point, they were still getting sketchy information, and they reported that the quake was centered in San Francisco. My thought was “Oh my God – if it was this big here in Capitola, and centered in SF, the city is toast.” I couldn’t even imagine what carnage that would have caused. As it turned out, of course, the epicenter was actually in Aptos – but that was probably the first of many instances when the Loma Prieta quake was erroneously attributed to San Francisco. To quote the clever local T-shirts, “Loma Prieta – it’s OUR fault.”

I decided to go back to my unit before it got dark, as the power was out, and I needed to try to find some flashlights, candles – and OK – if any of our booze had survived. When my partner got home, I was sure he’d want a good stiff drink as much as I did.

I picked my way into the kitchen and found the cabinet where we kept the liquor – and I couldn’t believe what I found. The cabinet door was open – it was completely empty, with most of its contents added to the chaotic mess on the floor – but just below the cabinet, on the ceramic counter top – sat a bottle of tequila, sitting upright, perfectly intact. It apparently had shimmied out of the cabinet, and somehow landed upright and unbroken on the counter. At that point I was in no mood to question how or why!

The aftershocks continued through the night, and many of my neighbors chose to sleep outside. It was unseasonably warm, the type of weather we still refer to as “earthquake weather.” We decided to sleep indoors, though, exhausted after several hours of cleaning up the mess (and helped along with shots from the miraculous tequila bottle.)

A post script: when I went back to work at O’Neill, I found that my computer – which was beneath an old wooden long board that was hanging on the wall – had been completely flattened when the board fell off during the quake. Had I left a few minutes later on quake day, the 100 – plus pound board would have flattened me as well. I could just imagine the headline: “O’Neill worker brained by surfboard in Quake!”

By Fadra Perrin
Santa Cruz

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Earthquake Memory

I am a dalmation, and was one year old (people years) in 1989. My name is Sam-Wise. Or perhaps more accurate to say I am the ghost of Sam-Wise. We lived in an unincorporated area of Santa Clara County not too far from Foothill College. I was in the living room day-dreaming about food when I sensed something was wrong. Then the house started shaking and my mistress came out of her bedroom into the hallway. I dashed to her and then it really started shaking. Everything was rattling and things were pouring out of cabinets and breaking. We were standing in the doorway between the hallway and the living room when the baby-grand piano flew all they way across the room at us. I got away but my mistress didn’t move fast enough. The piano banged into her and then wedged itself into the doorway and she went flying back into the hallway onto me. Fortunately she just had bruises and cracked ribs and no serious damage.

I must confess she wasn’t too happy with me just then as I kind of lost everything from all orifices onto the floor. She was even more unhappy that all of her fancy tea cups and saucers were in little pieces in the kitchen. And that the garage had fallen on her car. After a while my master got finally got home from work and
while they cleaned stuff up they tied me up outside. There was no need, I am too smart to step on glass and there was tons of food on the floor (everything from the refrigerator) that I could have helped with.

People came and said the house couldn’t be saved. It had been bolted to the foundation but the foundation itself was destroyed so that hadn’t done much good. There wasn’t any earthquake insurance, but State Farm gave us a bunch of money anyway because of water pipes breaking and for the car. Then B of A said they would refinance and give us money to start over even though the house wasn’t worth anything because we had the property for a long time and the land was worth it to them. We lived in the old house for a few months and
then moved to a very small house in Cupertino where the yard was much too small for me and the rude landlord made us pay a pet deposit. Outrageous. After about 6 months people went to the old house and took away the wood floors and cabinets and fixtures. Then it was bulldozed and a new house that was much nicer was put in it’s place. We finally moved back on July 4th, 1992.

By Sam-Wise

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I was in second grade at the time, standing near the kitchen door and holding a glass of milk. I had planned to start my daily homework. Abruptly, the quake began, thundering through our one story San Jose house and rattling the glasses in the cupboards. I dropped my glass and milk spread across the floor. My mother yelled something to me over the noise; she didn’t want me to cut my bare feet. I instinctively ran towards the front door, and she pulled me back the other way, towards the garage. We fled as the walls swayed and the ground rumbled beneath us. My parents’ newly purchased blue Voyager was leaping up and down on the driveway like a child on a sugar high. I couldn’t believe that an earthquake could move our van around with such ease. I also wondered if the palm tree planted beside our driveway would come crashing down as well. It felt as if the world would never stop moving…

When the shaking finally stopped, head began to spin. I remember asking my mother why I felt so dizzy, and she explained that I was simply reacting to the quake itself. Later that evening, I remember sitting on the couch inside, watching the aftermath of the quake on the local San Jose station, and shuddering as another aftershock rippled through our house. I didn’t feel safe again for some time…

By Beth Fisher

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