It’s hard to believe this month will be the 25th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake. But the proof is in my baby girl about to celebrate her 26th birthday:) It was just another Tuesday, and I ran down the escalator to catch the 5:00 p.m. train home to get home to feed my new baby. Down the stairs at the Embarcadero Bart station ticket in hand like a thousand days before, but missed the train. A few minutes later, the ground shook violently and as I looked around at the people around me I realized we were having an earthquake and it was bad. The lights went out momentarily and people screamed, then they flickered back on and people began to run. I hesitated, afraid of a stampede up the now still escalator, then joined the crowd as the Embarcadero station sign waved crazily above me.
It was over quickly, but when we came up to the light people were running around dazed. I didn’t know what to do and headed back to my office where I encountered several shaken colleagues who told me they had been on the 25th floor and swayed several feet. The bridge and BART were closed and phones were down (no cells yet); we spent the next several hours in the Mandarin Hotel Lobby huddled in fear (but drinking free wine:). Finally phone lines became available and we were able to let our families know we were okay. Eventually BART was declared safe and I got on the first train around 3 or 4 a.m. to get back to Concord. People were saying the Bay Bridge had collapsed. I was scared but wanted to get home. I spent the next few days watching the surreal news clips showing some of the horrific things that had happened. It seemed it could have been so much worse and I was thankful to be alive and well.
When I got the courage to return to work the following Monday, the nice doorman whom I chatted with daily told me his son was still missing and assumed dead in the Oakland freeway collapse, and it hit me that even though the death toll was “low” people had lost their friends and families, and I was heartbroken for them. I was afraid for a long time, but we humans are so amazing, in time I stopped thinking about it. Until, a few years later I was at Universal Studios and happened upon a ride – an EQ simulation. Against my better judgment, I entered. When the ground started shaking and the phony “Embarcadero” sign waving, I started to cry and begged them to stop. I was embarrassed but my fear just bubbled back to the surface. I knew I didn’t want to work in SF any more at that time, and a few years later I ditched the corporate commute, and got a job right down the street – and lived happily ever after. It felt good to write this down!
By Sheila Hill, via this blog’s Facebook page