Archive for January, 2009

My roommate was in the shower during the quake. I yelled to him “It’s an earthquake!” and he yelled back “No shit!”

We stood in line at Crown Hardware on Balboa with people to get batteries (power was out and the clerk sold things out of the store doorway), while my roommate told other people in line that “the Bay Bridge is down. People in the water!”

That same goofball, in full survivor mode, bought out all the small orange juices a hot dog vendor had at Ocean Beach. Absolutely laughable.

By Woody LaBounty


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I was living in Campbell in an apartment complex called Union Manor. My sister and I had accompanied my mother to the complex’s laundromat when it hit, I was six years old and my sister was two. I remember sitting on the dryer and next thing I knew my mom had pulled me off hurriedly and rushed my sister and I to the doorway of the structure. As I watched the shaking from the doorway I saw a cat run so fast I don’t even think his feet were touching the ground, and in that moment I remember thinking how scary it must be for a cat: Not knowing what is going on but that everything is shaking violently. It seemed like it lasted a really long time and when it was over my mom gathered us up, left her clothes, and in a kind of orderly chaos took us back to our apartment. There were large cracks in the ceiling, the fridge had tipped over and everything had fallen out of the cupboards. She grabbed some emergency supplies and for the next six hours we sat in the covered car port with everyone from our complex, which was safer than the units, to wait out all the aftershocks.

By Kristina Crooks

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I was in the men’s room at the parking lot across from Light House Point/Steamer’s Lane in Santa Cruz when the shaking began. I heard the roof beam of the cinder-block restroom building give a loud CRACK and I decided I’d better quit urinating and get out. (Most men know that this can be a very difficult proposition…It took me a second to make this decision!)

I stopped in the door frame and looked out to the parking lot to my 1966 Dodge van where my fiancée and my friend were sitting. I saw waves of asphalt traveling toward me and my fiancée leaning out the door of the van yelling “Hey, quit jumping on the bumper!” I yelled, “It’s an earthquake, hold on!” she turned in the direction of my voice and her eyes went as wide as dinner plates when she saw the asphalt waves.

We both were silently staring at each other for about the next 10 seconds or so, and went the waves stopped, I made my way over to my parked vehicle to see that everyone was alright. About that time my friend looked toward the bay and exclaimed, “Look at the @#$% water, man!” My fiancée and I turned to see that the water in Monterey Bay had “sucked” out to beyond Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf and was still moving away from shore at an amazing pace. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, and ran toward West Cliff Drive to get a better look. As I was marveling at the water receding from shore and thinking about Tsunamis, I heard the “skittering” sound of animal claws on pavement. I turned toward the noise and saw a Welsh Corgi heading towards me, running as if the Devil himself was after him.

I screamed and ran towards the little dog with my arms outstretched. “Stop dog, Stop!” No luck. Before I could think I was diving to try and catch the little guy before he hit the street. No luck again. The Corgi, bent on escaping his Demon, skirted around me and ran directly in the path of a car driving down West Cliff. Of course, the driver of the car was looking frantically at the water in the bay and never saw the poor little dog.

Smack! the car hit the dog. I don’t remember if the driver even stopped. I imagine he did, but I do remember going out to the street with some old newspaper that I’d found lying in the gutter and lifting the dog onto it and dragging him back up to the curb. I also remember feeling the little guy’s neck for a pulse… His heart was slowing, slowing, stopped. The Corgi died from his injuries right then and there.

The radio dial was completely empty in the first few minutes after the quake. We knew it had to be bad because of the fact that no one was on the air. I tried the small T.V. that was strapped to the ceiling of my van and found all of those stations off the air as well. Within a few minutes, local AM station KSCO was back on the air however and began reporting. None of the radio announcers knew how big the quake was, but were reporting that it was the largest and longest earthquake any of them had felt. They were asking for anyone with information to please come by the studios as they didn’t have phone service either, but they did have an emergency generator.

We were lucky, as back in those days I carried and illegally high powered CB radio in my van. I was able to make contact with several of my friends on CB. One man asked me to check on his grandparents who lived just off of West Cliff Drive. He told me that he was stuck on the east side of town as the main road through that part of town; Soquel Avenue was blocked due to “giant holes in the road.” Later, many local “Ham” radio operators appeared on the CB band, saying that their long-range radio repeater systems had gone down due to power failure and CB and the other “short range” bands were the only thing going. The rudimentary cell phone systems of the day had failed as well.

We went to my CB friend’s grand folks’ home and found grandma okay, but she told us she “couldn’t find grandpa.” We searched the house and found grandpa hiding in a closet. I guess he thought he was back in the infantry in WW II!

My home and my grandma’s home were both okay, save for a little junk and china on the floor. I set up a small “information” post for the seniors who lived in my grandmother’s condo complex, as none of them had power either.  I had radio and television receivers as well as a police scanner and my CB radio. I kept hot coffee available on my camp stove, provided a source of light in the evening time and went on water and supply runs for some of the folks who were too scared to venture from their homes. In the next few days we toured the county to see homes completely destroyed, roads collapsed and power lines down. A couple of deaths and several injuries occurred in downtown Santa Cruz due to the old, un-reinforced masonry construction in that area. We lost our beloved Cooper House in this earthquake and if you ask me, downtown Santa Cruz just isn’t the same without it.

By David Eason, Santa Cruz

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Menlo Park

I was at work in Menlo Park in ’89 in a typical 1960s “curtain wall” structure that later was condemned and had to be completely reinforced with a structural steel exoskeleton…. The company at first denied there had been any damage even when cracks showed in the concrete walls. Finally two weeks after the quake they got an engineer’s report and a company VP ran through the halls yelling “Evacuate, get out, get out now!!!”

I had the fun of being on the phone for Loma Prieta. I said “do you feel that” at the P wave, and caller at first said no, then started yelling as it hit him. I dropped the phone and slid under my desk until a hysterical coworker ran by screaming, then I dashed out and grabbed her and we both stood in the doorway (useless) as fire extinguishers flew off the wall mounts and Sun workstations bounced off the desks onto the floors.

We really thought the building was coming down. Evidently it almost did…. Engineers later said that it could have come down in a 4.0 aftershock, and we had plenty of them.

After the shaking stopped, we evacuated via the stairways where the emergency lights were off because no one had ever checked the batteries. Chunks of concrete littered the lobby.

Stood around in the parking lot and then started to drive the short distance home, worried about the roofers who had been working on my house that day. The roof that was three stories up.

Aftershock hit as I was stopped at an out-of-order traffic light. Bouncy bouncy, that was very weird.

Roofers were sitting in the driveway, still white as sheets. Roofer said he didn’t know he could “get so intimate with roof rafters.” Went inside cautiously and brought out bottle of booze for me and roofers. Discovered electricity and phone were out. Turned off gas.

Things were tossed around inside house but looked OK. Actually found later that day that two stained glass windows had popped out and were lying in the yard, dismembered but unbroken, and weeks later found that chimney flue was cracked and had to be relined. Eventually noticed that CDs in CD tower had all slid over in one direction, and that four poster bed in upstairs bedroom had left four indentations in the ceiling, one above each post. Yes, it seemed to have bounced that high. Slept on the couch downstairs for about a month.

Seriously, though, I thought I was going to die in that one, and that’s exactly what my dad had said about being in the San Fernando quake in Southern California in the 1970s. That building I was in made noises that buildings are not supposed to make.

By “VA Gentlewoman” (a reposting of her comment on a Daily Kos posting in response to an October 2007 Bay Area earthquake)

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In October of ’89
things were going fine;
Then came the seventeenth,
that trapped and killed people beneath,
The cypress while cares were in a line.

The time was 5:04
when fate knocked on the door;
The earth began to move,
as the fault made a grove,
and shook things to the floor.

Shake Rattle and roll,
I ran into a pole;
only a black eye,
I said with a sigh,
because Santa Cruz took the toll.

It shook at 7.0
it took down things in a row;
“We’ll have a bigger one,” they say,
But not for me, NO WAY!!
Because I’m leaving, but where will I go?

My husband and I had just sat down with our 9 year old son and was helping get his homework started.  I have lived in the Santa Clara Valley the better part of my life and didn’t fear earthquakes.  We were in Campbell, close to the Los Gatos side.

I heard the rumble and knew it was going to be bigger then a 5.  So I suggested we leave our bottom apartment, and the bouncing started.  I now knew we must be fairly close to the epicenter, because of the bounce before the rolling and shaking started.  My son took off in a run, and I ran out after him.  Our apartment building formed a court yard in between a mirror image of the apartment building next door, safe from falling stuff. So I shouted at my son, “Stop, Sit” and he did, so I was just slowing down when the first jerk threw me into the car port pole.  As the shaking was going on my mother and daughter were coming down the stairs from the apartment above me.  The first hard jerk almost threw them off the stairs.  The neighbors where coming out the doors and we all semi stood in the courtyard.

I had started high blood pressure medication that week, and when I started chest pains, headache and feeling woozy, I was afraid I might have gone into heart failure, so the family took me to Good Samaritan Hospital.  As I walked through the door to emergency, they had a tag that looked similar to a baggage tag. They were able to see me right away, as the family stayed together in the waiting room.  Turns out I had hit the pole hard enough to get a concussion, bruised breast bone, bruised ribs, hip and ankle.  They sent me home and told me I could fall asleep until midnight.

When we got home the power was out, so the family found a restaurant that was open.  Customers were even helping out the staff by filling peoples coffee as they passed tables to fill their own.

Partially filled booths offered seating to strangers so that more people could get something to eat. It was quite an experience to see people coming together.

Power was out most of the night in Campbell, and we couldn’t see in the apartment to see what was out of place, broken or dangerous, so we grabbed the couch cushions, and lined the courtyard and truck beds.  Neighbors brought out camping lights, candles, games and radios.  Phones were down around town, but you could call the east coast.  Radios were relaying information back to our area.  This family was safe, or that family had gone to be with Aunt so-and-so type stuff.  I was tucked into the bed of a truck and taken care of by all.  The children from the two complexes thought it was great fun to have a camp out. All night long we had after shocks.  The power would come on, and then an aftershock would cause it to go out again.  The ground felt like it was moving all the time for about 3 days.

When we got back into our apartments in the morning, we discovered the things that fell were on the same side of the walls in all apartments.  Mom’s dishes that were on the counter to dry were okay, but the knickknacks at a 90 degree angle from them had fallen or scooted to the edge.  On the same wall down in our apartment, a dresser had fallen over.

It took me a few years before any moving ground or rumble caused my heart to jump.  Now I’m back to the seasoned Californian.  “Oh that’s about a 5.”

By Linda Moore (poem written in October 1989)

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I had already picked up my daughter at her day care center and had gone in the late afternoon to get my son at his kindergarten class.

My son was the last student to be picked up.  His teacher and my kids and I were the only ones left in the classroom. As I spoke about something with Ms. Scott there came an unusual sound. It resembled a very powerful jet rumble. It stopped our conversation.

There is an aircraft corridor over us to the Monterey Peninsula airport so I think we both assumed it was just an enormous plane coming in…but the rumble became more powerful but not louder. It “felt” stronger.

A few seconds after we heard the rumble the building began to shift and make creaking sounds. The ground also. We felt some irregular lifting, kind of a roll.  My son’s teacher and I instinctively grabbed my children and we ran outside of the building and onto a grass bluff far enough away so that if the building came down we would be clear of it.  We then threw ourselves down on the grass and tightly held on to each other.

It was a surreal sight and feeling.  I had been through several earthquakes in my life here but I never experienced one so long lasting and powerful.

The entire school building in front of us was swaying back and forth.  The oak tree canopies near us were “swirling” in a seemingly illogical manner like the ground underneath them was being moved and shifted in jerks and their tops were vibrating in the same way. And you could hear the oak trees leaves rustling like someone was shaking a branch of these with great energy.

You could also hear something that most of us will never hear in our lifetimes. This was a continuous muffled land moving roar. A combination of trees shaking and dirt moving? Or maybe you feel this more than hear it. I’m not sure.

The earth-shaking event I was sitting on top of was sending breath taking waves of energy through me that were so incomprehensibly powerful that I was filled with a sense of fear, awe, vulnerability and fragileness that I had never imagined possible.   You felt so small and powerless and really believed that the physical world around you could be coming to a cataclysmic end!

Everything in your mental warehouse took on a different perspective. Your life, your childrens’ lives, your relationships to others and the society in which you lived.

While this great seismic shift was occurring people were stopping their cars in the street.  I remember a very expensive looking Mercedes Benz screeching to a halt and a well dressed woman driver jumped out and almost hysterically she screamed “Is this the big one?”  I yelled back “Yes!”

She flailed her arms and cried…”I’m moving from California and never coming back!”  She then jumped back in her car and roared off.

I was simply praying. Praying that the shaking would stop and we would be safe.

I also had brief thoughts about other places while the quake was happening.  I knew that the Monterey Peninsula (being on a slab of granite) was seldom the epicenter of larger quakes in this part of California.  I thought “if we are feeling this as powerful as we were here…someone else must be getting hit even harder!”

As I later learned that was the case with great damage and loss of life in the San Francisco Bay Area.  But even here we had many tilted telephone poles and cracked chimneys and home foundations and off-set porches and decks.

Being on top of a great earthquake is a life changing event.  The fear it creates in you is of a kind and magnitude that you can’t adequately describe in written words.  I suppose being close to a volcanic eruption would be worse.

One last view.  What I noticed during the quake was that everyone you came in contact with during the quake and throughout that evening and the next day seemed friendlier to you and others. It was as if you all went through an experience that made you feel like you could die at any instant. An experience that also made you realize how we are all just these small beings on a massive ball of unpredictably volatile dirt, water and fire.

Most everyone seemed to have this feeling of commonality.  We were all the same again.  The false human created differences between us had temporarily disappeared.  Rich and poor, better or worse dressed, old and young, different ethnic background, better educated versus less….these lines of separation were simply erased!   Everyone was reaching out to whoever was closest for shared comfort and hope.

In this way it was a religious experience.  A beautiful one really.

By Joe Bauer

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Seconds ticked on (two, five),
offices no longer safe,
my window bowing like plastic (ten),
I needed shelter (fifteen),
spotted a desk across the hall,

dove underneath, someone already there,
a large woman filling the entire space;
my head by her bottom (twenty),
sprinklerheads falling from the ceiling,
when it ended (twenty-three) we giggled.

Later my little family unhurt,
our house undamaged, just power out.
We put our candles away and
headed for my parents’ small apartment,
my extended family, two by two by two.

Perhaps I knew then, watching my mother,
her party self after cocktails,
and my dad, temporary patriarch.
Perhaps I knew he would die, soon,
with as little warning as an earthquake.

He found this never-used two-foot flashlight
and together we inserted batteries.
I enjoyed a wonderful well-fathered moment
as it shone its first light
in this emergency explicable to anyone.

But soon the aftershocks started,
damned things, more earthquakes really, and
reports, how close we’d come to complete ch/ao/s,
people building new foundations under old houses,
and new shaking, day or night.

Whatever we were doing, we’d run to the children,
hold them, then, quick, turn on teevee.
Where’s the epi-center? What’s the Richter reading?

The next week a friend called saying
children from alcoholic families
were particularly hard hit. I said not me,
I’m ok/ay.

Kevin Arnold

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