Archive for August, 2014

Loma Prieta

I was in Los Banos, playing volleyball, an away game freshman year.

The phone line went down and I couldn’t contact my family or friends from school. It was a long ride home hearing of the disaster and feeling the effects of the earthquake. I didn’t know if they would be there when we got back.

I’m from the Bay Area, we have earthquakes every day. This one was a noticeable disaster.

By S Blas


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I was living on 17th Ave next to Live Oak Super at the time. Had a roommate I am still tight with now. It was a handy location for my job at West Marine, except by then we had done “The Big Move” to Watsonville. I had just gotten home from work. We were low on supplies. So I was literally already standing in our front doorway with my checkbook and my shopping list, as we were discussing ALL the stuff we needed, which at that time included booze and cigarettes (at the top of the priority list), I was young and knew everything by then haha.

As I found myself holding on to the door frame to avoid falling down, I watched the huge fish tank topple to the ground and “bounce” across the living room floor. And “smoke-like” stuff coming from the chimney. After the shaking stopped, I dashed to Live Oak Super for those mandatory supplies! Live Oak Super was owned by an Asian family of wonderful people back then. They didn’t speak any English, but had locked the doors and shook their heads, “no.” I could see the food was above ankle deep on the floor behind them, so I knew to leave without argument. Plus, I loved them there.

We sat up in the yard out back with no nothing (not even food, really). We ate some peanut butter and pulled the car into the back yard to play the radio for news. There was an eerie darkness soon in the horizon…

After talking and talking about how odd the quiet was, we went to our rooms for the night. Next day was a day off work, so I headed over to my Mom’s (where I now live) and saw she had friends and neighbors helping get her water heater put back, etc. then I headed over to Live Oak Super and explained somehow that I wanted to help the clean up. My roommate came with me. So they let us in and we proceeded to clear up the rotting frozen food and the broken glass and sauces.

Soon a line formed at the front of the store, full of locals needing supplies, with no idea if they had anything left. Since I spoke the same language as the people in line, I was assigned to take orders at the door (to avoid allowing people to climb atop of glass) and see what I could do with what we had left to sell. People wanted frozen dinners, TV guide magazine, all kinds of unnecessary and useless goods. So my job was evaluating them and helping each family decide what they truly needed. Powdered milk, canned goods that could be eaten safely, etc. This went on for 2 days before I had to return to work, and the store started to look like a store again, except no new deliveries yet. As I left that second evening, they thanked me and sent me home with some beer, cigarettes and some food. No charge. Very generous!

Now all these years later, I returned to this area and went to Live Oak Super, if only to see who remained of that family. They were long gone. I spoke with a cashier, who explained she and her husband had ALSO volunteered to help out at the store back then, and when the owners decided to retire and sell, they offered this couple the chance to buy the store. I have to say, the new family seems just as kind. They loved sharing their stories from that day/week/month/year.

It was a very rewarding experience to partake in such a thing. Going back to work was another story. I was head of the carpool that week to Watsonville. We were practically the only car on the buckled road (hwy 1). It was important to get our West Marine trucks on the roads to the stores, especially the Bay Area stores. Since we sold survival merchandise for boaters, batteries, etc, it was a panic situation… I had difficulty caring about work, sorry to say. But we got those trucks out as soon as we heard there were ways to actually GET to the stores. There were only 13 West Marine stores back then!

After 2 weeks without gas, I gave up trying to reach PG&E over the phone and made a big cardboard sign: WE NEED PG&E, and it worked. An employee of theirs saw the sign on his way home from a LONG SHIFT at work and checked our gas lines.

Very cool. Wish I knew his name… Good things happen when bad things happen sometimes. 🙂

By Laurie Otto

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’89 Quake Story

My father was a traveling man who worked for the airlines, and I pretty much blocked out a lot of incidents because it was a tough life. This story finally came back to me. It was a week before my 9th birthday, so this is a story from the eyes of a child, a little girl. My dad had just transferred to sfo and we just moved to San Jose.

My father was taking my older brother (10) and I out and my younger brother (3) was to stay home with my mom. As we headed for the front door I remember glancing at the tv while the world series was on. Suddenly the channel flickered off and on, and that’s when I felt a strange rattling beneath my feet. I had never felt an earthquake.

I ran from the doorway back in the house and my dad grabbed my older brother to run outside. I remember him yelling at me to follow but I was frozen and too terrified to go out there. I couldn’t imagine what was out there causing this shaking, and I stood there crying. My mom ran under a table, ignorant about what to do. It was a glass table and my dad yelled for her to get her and my baby brother out of there. I was the only one without a parent’s hand to hold, and I couldn’t be more confused, lost and terrified.

I felt torn about whether I should obey my dad’s commands to go outside, or stay safe inside. I could only see the fear in his eyes, and hear my mother’s screams. I pouted all alone. I kept falling to my knees, trying hard to stand and hold a wall or something. My older brother clung to my dad’s arm the entire time.

Then the shaking stopped, but I still felt the swaying. We all went outside, and after seeing the things falling inside the house I worried things would be falling outside too. The last thing I remember was seeing my neighbors standing outside looking at their damaged houses. Chimneys caved in, broken windows, and I kneeled on the floor and pressed my hands on the cement and felt the rocking back and forth. It felt as if I was the one pushing it. Then the fear jumped back inside me, and I tried to run up our steps to get away from the unstable ground.

By Andovena

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