My husband had recently retired; we had sold our home and were temporarily renting a waterfront flat in Sausalito as we prepared to move to our new home in Mexico. I had just boxed up my grandma’s china, prior to auctioning the Welsh dresser where we’d displayed it. We were watching the World Series on TV when we felt the quake.
We’d both lived in the Bay Area for decades, and experienced many quakes. We knew this one was big. Our flat, which had survived the 1906 quake, swayed and creaked violently, and for a long time. Some pictures and objects fell. We made guesses about the strength and location of the epicenter. The TV went blank, and the power went off. Our cat freaked out, and we captured and cuddled her. We found a battery radio and turned on the news. One of the first things we heard was that “The Bay Bridge has collapsed.”
We had a clear view of the span from our deck: We could see it still standing. We got our binoculars, and then saw the collapsed lane. Soon, neighbors we did not know started wandering down the beach in front of the deck, and everyone was chatting excitedly.
We heard that the Marina district was on fire, but couldn’t see that part of the city from our place, so we walked down the block to the Sausalito
Boardwalk in front of what was then Sally Stanford’s restaurant. We could see the flames, and worried about a friend who lived there.
Since we were moving to a hot climate, we were already in the process of clearing out our closets. The next day, we filled up the car with warm bedding and warm clothes: I recall there were many drop off points for this type of donation. Because the Bay Bridge was closed, traffic in Marin was horrific. We felt grateful not to be commuting anymore. At first everyone was courteous on the roads and in public, but as the weeks progressed, people seemed to lose their patience with the congestion and inconvenience.
We felt many, many aftershocks; as boaters, we kind of got used to that, like rolling on the sea. A couple of weeks later we flew down to Mexico to oversee progress on our house; we stayed in a rented apartment that had twin beds. One morning I woke up on the floor: I had a vivid dream of an earthquake, and had literally bounced off the bed. I think I was so used to moving earth, my dream re-created it.
One of our former employees had been at Candlestick during the World Series game, but no one we knew was seriously impacted by the quake. We were extremely offended when people suggested we were moving away because of the quake. We were, after all, moving to the Hurricane Latitudes.
I have always remained happy to have been here to experience Loma Prieta, tragic as it was. I am among many who actively enjoy feeling the earth move, as we did this week at work. I feel resentful when there is a quake and I somehow don’t feel it, like the 6.2 today [January 9] in Eureka. I like to be reminded of the power of nature: Despite human depredation on our environment, there are some things we cannot change or predict.
By Jane Firstenfeld
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