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Posts Tagged ‘Loma Prieta’

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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– Yeah, I got a good story. I had a 2-bedroom apartment. Now it’s a studio.
– Was I scared? I still need to change my shorts.
People keep comparing this to a war zone, and I can see why. Looks like Beirut after bombing. Helicopters thumping overhead, , big ol’ cranes on tractor treads with shovels like dragon’s jaws, even got fangs, taking bites out of somebody’s dream houses A water cannon lays down a misty barrage. Doesn’t keep all the dust down though. Blows toward Marina Boulevard – strong southwest winds today – gets in spectators’ eyes. They rub ‘em and squint and rub ‘em again and pick at ‘em and stare some more. Kids sit on the curb. They love it, can’t be torn away. – Christine, Michael, come on, follow me.
Reminds me of when they tore down the old Cape Cod houses around the corner in 1960 and the peewees watched enthralled. We even helped them out a little, after the sweating cursing men shut off their pocketa-pocketa Diesels and went home. Kids love destruction.
Shame these have to be such beautiful houses though. Stucco, Spanish tile, iron grillwork. Rather a hodgepodge really: there’s Victorian and New England saltbox and Gallic Revival. The kind of hodgepodge of the haut bourgeoisie that appalls aesthetic foreigners, but they are nice houses if you don’t mind hodgepodge. They’ve got lots of nice stuff in them, that’s for sure. Most have been emptied, those that didn’t collapse completely. Gollleee, there be some pickins’ in that rubble. I wonder if anybody tagged along after the dump truck.
The evacuation of artifacts continues. Lots of U-Hauls and friends’ pickups (everybody has a friend with a pickup, don’t they?). Yupmobiles loading too: behold the broker’s BMW crammed and piled with worldlies, got a cumbersome load like the flatbed Fode of Tommy Joad.
Buddha remains on his throne though. At Marina and Scott, across from the yacht basin, gilded Buddha remains in the front window, bouquet of plastic roses in his folded hands, 6-foot gold pagodas on either side. Limited Entry. Emergencies Only. The House of Buddha is closed, sorry.
Nature is such a clever demolisher. Guerilla groups on a budget could learn from her. Don’t blow the whole fuckin’ thing down, just give it a good thump. Crack it just enough so they gotta finish knocking it down themselves.
O Palace of Fine Arts, you Cecil B. DeMille monstrosity, how is it you survived? Not that I object: thou art a wondrous if not beautiful edifice, and I am pleased to see the mighty columns intact. Not a gargoyle displaced, not a figurine ajar. Great stone urns loom at the roof’s edge. A tremulous teeter would be enough to send them plummeting to a rocky crash on the concrete below.
Some nice people – well, everybody’s nice people today –are being married in the rotunda. Well, not quite the rotunda: the yellow plastic Caution Caution Caution tape so prevalent in this shaken land keeps them ex portas. They’ll be explaining that yellow band years from now when the wedding photos are displayed. A guy asks me who got married, and when I say I don’t know, he asks,
– Who are you working for?
– Oh, um, nobody, just freelancing.
– I mean, I saw you had this notebook, so I was wondering…
– Well, I dunno, somebody might buy it. Just thought I’d take some notes.
– Reason I ask is because I saw your notebook, and I’m a reporter too. Pacific News Service. Do you live around here?
– No, I live in the Haight. We got through okay. You?
– I live here. Well, I used to live here.
– Oh…your house?
– It’s gone. Or it will be. Got the red tag.
– Get your stuff out?
– No. I lost some irreplaceables. My stories, my book of contacts. But I got out.
– Will they let you back in?
– I don’t want to go back in. It’s this close to coming down. The Big Bad Wolf could blow it down. Little Bo Peep could blow it down. So who are you working for? Oh, you’re not a reporter. What are you?
– I’m an English teacher. I’m having my students write essays on this, so I thought I’d better too.
– Where do you teach?
– College of San Mateo.
– My son went there. But he avoided English classes. Writing wasn’t his gift.
– How’d he get through?
– He didn’t. Now he builds houses. But a housebuilder is probably more important now than you or me.
– True.

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I was working on the 31st floor of the 101 California Bldg in downtown San Francisco when the earthquake hit. My girlfriend and I both worked for Russian stock brokers, and they had called us in to work their phones that afternoon. We had just caught a bus, and a cable car, took the elevator up to the 31st floor, sat down to make our first calls when the quake hit.

We had just moved to California from Maryland and this was our 2nd earthquake. That high up, we heard the earthquake before we felt it. You could hear a low rumbling that got louder and louder. When the first wave hit, it caused the building to start shifting to one direction. The scary part was that it didn’t shake, and the floor just kept moving to one direction. Then it began to tilt, and I thought maybe that was it. I later found out that this newer building had flexible girders built into the structure, and this caused the building to move and “flex.” The building felt like it swayed 50 feet in each direction! Once the quake waves hit the roof and began reverberating back, along with more waves coming up the building, the building started to shift and tilt around randomly for a while. I described it as feeling like an ant on a blade of grass on a windy day.

I vividly remember we all started looking over at the Bay Bridge, even though we couldn’t see the damage.

The funny story was that one of the stockbrokers was still selling to a customer over the phone during this whole event. We later found out he had never been in a quake, and thought we were playing some sort of joke on him.

Both my girlfriend and I eventually took the 31 flights of stairs down and headed towards Union Square. We found one store open, a Chinese grocery that had one of those old mechanical cash registers (and a candle lighting the place).

Unfortunately, my girlfriend and I got into an argument after this. I cannot remember what about, but she stormed off and I did as well. The rest of the night involved me finding my way back to Western Addition where we lived, and worrying about the fact I just left my girlfriend in downtown SF to fend for herself in a blackout.

I caught a bus downtown that was my bus to Western Addition, but the bus driver told me he was just driving wherever he could get. It turned out the bus had just come from Candlestick, and it was full of people who had been at the World Series game. The bus ended up driving down to Lombard Street where we ended up in an endless traffic jam in the Marina.

I got off the bus and headed toward Van Ness Avenue. I remember being amazed that the city was in a blackout. There was a lady walking down Van Ness with a candle to guide her, I remember seeing tour buses just driving around aimlessly. Eventually I found my way to a friend’s house on Van Ness, and then caught the Fulton bus towards my apartment. The scary thing was the bus driver stopped the bus halfway there, in a bad neighborhood, and said she wasn’t driving any further because of rioting. I left the bus and jogged around the bad neighborhood all the way to our apartment.

I ended up getting home at 4am after a very long journey, only to find out that my girlfriend had made it home in a couple of hours!

Because of this event, I decided I wanted to understand earthquakes more. I came to UCSC as an Earth Sciences major and graduated with an Earth Sciences degree in 2001.

By Patrick Testoni

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I live in the east bay but on October 17, 1989 I decided it would be a great day to visit my sister in Santa Cruz. Her daughter was going to turn 7 on October 19th and I thought it would be fun to go shopping with my sister and get her a birthday gift. I had 4 boys of my own. My husband had the day off from work so he agreed to watch the boys while I drove down to Santa Cruz to go shopping. I didn’t want to make things too hard for my husband so I took my youngest son with me. He was going to turn 3 that November. He was always happy and was easy to take places.

I picked up my sister at her house on the west side of Santa Cruz. I really wanted to go shopping downtown in all the interesting stores that only exist in Santa Cruz. She wanted to go to the Capitola Mall though, so I relented and we went to the mall. I didn’t get to visit my sister a lot but when I did I would normally stay until about 5 PM before I headed for home. On this day her daughter was in daycare and she had agreed to go and help out at the day care center at 3:30. I was vaguely annoyed about this because it didn’t leave us much time for shopping. We left the mall and I drove my sister back home and dropped her off at nearly 3:30.

I decided to head downtown and do a little shopping on my own. Downtown is where I wanted to go in the first place and it might be a while before I would have another chance. I liked to park around the corner and down two blocks from the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company. I would have time to put my son in his stroller and walk up one side of the street and down the other and then maybe stop for juice and coffee at the Coffee Roasting Company. I was headed downtown and only a few blocks away when I turned around to look at my son. He had his head back, his mouth open and he was SOUND asleep. He was in the kind of sleep little kids go into where it’s a bad idea to wake them up and expect them to be happy about it. I was annoyed and could not decide whether to risk waking him or to just give up on my plans altogether. I really wanted to shop in the downtown area. At the last second I suddenly decided it was too much to ask of a tired 2 year old and I turned and got on the freeway and headed for home.

I had probably been home for 15 or 20 minutes at 5:04. My 4 year old son was in his bedroom in the back of the house having a nap. I thought the rest of them were all out in the front yard. I was in the kitchen doing dishes. The house began to creak terribly and I knew it was an earthquake. I closed the upper cabinet with the dishes but the cabinet door immediately swung back open and hit my hand. I took two steps toward the room where my son was sleeping but the house was shaking so violently now I could not walk and was hanging on to the edge of the sink. I realized I was not going to make it all the way back to his room and there was nothing I could do. I moved over and opened the door going out to the garage so I could stand in the doorway but the water heater was right on the other side and was shaking violently and then the door swung out and back and HIT me pretty hard hurting my arm. I closed the door and wedged myself into the corner of the kitchen by the door. I had a had time deciding if the earthquake had stopped or not. I felt like I was shaking inside and things were still moving. My ceiling fans in my living room were swinging back and forth.

At the worst it had felt like the house was really going to come down on me and my son and there was nothing I could do. Now, it stopped and I could not believe the dishes were still in the cabinets and the china cabinet had not fallen over, in fact, just about everything seemed ok. I rushed back to my son in the back bedroom to find him still sleeping but his aquarium was missing about 4 inches of water and the carpet was soaked. Everybody outside knew we had an earthquake but didn’t think it was as bad as it was. I was sure it must have been centered right under us! I turned on the TV but found we had no power. Then we had power but still no TV. Then within 30 minutes we did have TV and they were showing the Bay Bridge. When they said it was centered closer to Santa Cruz I began calling my sister. All I could get were recordings stating not to use the phone lines. Still, I wanted to know if my sister was OK.

News reports began to state Santa Cruz was the hardest hit and they had no info coming out of Santa Cruz and were flying over it with helicopters. I was very scared my sister and her family might have been hurt. I kept calling. About 10 PM I called again and suddenly she answered, “Hello?” I realized I could not talk but finally was able to say her name. She said “Oh hi, guess what? We had a big earthquake here and I don’t have any power!” I realized she had no idea the magnitude of this earthquake. I began to fill her in and told her to make sure she had batteries and water. It was weeks before we were able to visit my sister again. When we finally were able to go and see her we still had to take highway 9 to get there. Her house had some bad cracks inside and the chimney was cracked. It never did get fixed. She was renting the house.

I think about that day every time there are stories about earthquakes. I remember as clearly as if it were yesterday turning around and seeing my little son so sound asleep in the back seat. I wonder, what if he had been awake? How different that day would have been.

By Nancy in Fremont

P.S. Nancy adds this story about her sister and niece’s experience at day care:

She went to work at the day care place at 3:30 in Santa Cruz.  She was still there at 5:04.   She was outside at recess with all the kids.  Her daughter, who was going to turn 7 on the 19th, was alone in one of the classrooms.   Her daughter was a bit of a problem child and had made a mess in the book area of the classroom.   The teacher in her room told her she could not come outside until she cleaned it up.   She was cleaning it up when the earthquake started.  I think the little book area was in a corner of the room.   There was a 3 or 4 foot tall book shelf on one wall and a mirror on the other.   The mirror and possibly the windows broke and the book shelf fell over on top of my niece.   My sister ran to look for her as soon as the earthquake was over and when she ran into the classroom there was her daughter with books on top of her and things broken around her.   She was ok but she was crying and said “Mommy!   I DID NOT do this!!”

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I was going to school at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, back when it was located at 19th and Ortega Streets. On the late afternoon of October 17th, I had stopped at a ‘mom and pop’ corner market at 19th and Ortega to pick up a bottle of grape juice and a small package of Sausolito cookies. The quake hit a few minutes after I left the store, while I was standing on a corner, waiting to cross the street. It knocked me over, so that my hands were touching the ground. I looked up, and saw a lady in a convertible at the stop sign next to me. Her car was rocking back and forth, and she had a terrified expression on her face. She seemed to be looking to me for an explanation. I looked across the street and saw houses swaying, and telephone wires twirling in circles, like jump ropes. Alarms went off everywhere.

Once it stopped, I started laughing hysterically – the way people do when they know that something life-altering has happened, and somehow they’ve managed to keep themselves in one piece. Nothing had collapsed in front of me, so I thought everything was okay. Still, on my way home, I kept encountering people in their front yards, unwilling to go back in their homes. One lady was sitting on her front steps, crying. I asked if she was okay, and she sobbed that everything in her house was shattered. Then I started to worry a bit, and I ran home. My roommate was out in his car listening to the radio, he said, because there was no power. I found a radio with batteries in the house, and we waited inside, listening to the radio, learning of the devastation. The sun went down, and the city was dark except for the fires in the Marina District. Occasionally, the power would come on for a few minutes, and we’d see a bit of television coverage – the Bay Bridge collapse, the Cypress Structure in ruins, and the Marina District in flames.

The next morning my roommate and I surveyed the neighborhoods in the Inner Sunset District, near our flat. It seemed that some blocks, like ours, had been lucky – a few things knocked down, and just a few cracks in the walls and the stucco. Every other block, it seemed, had been hit hard, with houses literally cracked in half, or knocked askew off their foundations. Down in the business section of the Inner Sunset, the shops had lost all their windows, and were all shuttered and closed. Later that day, I started to feel helpless just sitting at home, and decided to volunteer at a shelter in the Marina District, where newly homeless locals were sent. I took a bus down to the Marina District, which only got me so far, since the area was closed off to traffic. I walked the rest of the way, and even though I’d seen pictures in the morning paper and on the news, I was unprepared for what I saw. Seeing the ruins of the Marina took my breath away, and I had to stop and gather my emotions.

I spent the next few days at Marina Middle School, and I don’t remember any of it. It was all a blur. I only remember the fierce storm that kicked up when I had to leave to go back to school. It was like adding insult to injury. The rain poured and the winds howled, blowing over steel barricades. I remember that Geraldo Rivera was there right as I was leaving, and I was in a shot with him and a bunch of other volunteers. When I made it back to the Conservatory, soaking wet, there was an administrator at the door, checking people off as they arrived at school. Nobody could focus on school right away, but we tried. We all had different stories, and couldn’t stop telling them. It’s been 20 years, and I’m grateful to be able to tell my story again.

By Kathleen

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I had just started a new job about a month before and was on my way home. I had waited FOREVER for a bus but the World Series was in progress so I figured that was what caused the delay. Finally I reached the TransBay Terminal. As I crossed over the expansion joints of the ramps to the buses, I heard what seemed like a train coming. Years of dust blew up from the joints. Life seemed to hold still…. But then we all boarded buses as usual…

When the bus reached Yerba Buena (YBI)/Treasure Island, the bus stopped and waited. At some point we all disembarked and the bus went back to the terminal. The passengers were left to their own devices. I met some people who said we could walk across the bridge. As a mother of an 8 year-old, I opted for that. But halfway across, we met people who said walking across was not possible. My next choice was to get to my mother’s house in the Noe Valley area of SF. I walked back to YBI and hitched a ride back to SF. The driver was running out of gas so his odds of finding a pump that worked were not good. I got out near my office but by that time everyone had left and the doors were closed. Being in a seedy neighborhood, things were getting a little rough (drinking, screaming, etc) so I walked to Market St. and continued walking west towards Castro St. I stopped at each pay phone to see if it worked. None did. Along Market Street, I saw civilians directing traffic and other people, in restaurants, continuing their meals as if nothing had happened. When I reached Market and Castro, I started hitching a ride (hey, I was 39 but I had grown up in the “summer of love”!). I got a ride from a woman to 26th and Noe. From that point I walked. But people were outside with flashlights helping me find my way. When I reached my mother’s house, we collapsed in each others’ arms. My mother was 76 and living alone. I was 39 and living with my husband and 8-yr old in Oakland. We worried about each other and about my daughter and my husband. After all that emotion was excised, I went around to her neighbors to see who had phone service (she did not). Someone up the street did and I was able to finally talk to my family and let them know I was OK and with “Grandma”. It was almost like a street party on that block – people out on the street talking to others – letting them know if they had phone service – letting them know if they needed any help (water? gas turned off?)

I slept at my mother’s – something I hadn’t done in 10 years…. The next day, my sister, who lived in West Portal – came over and after talking about the previous day’s events (her husband was a City inspector so was at the Marina most of the night)she drove me to 6th and Mission – that’s as far as we could go – so I could walk to the Ferry Building and catch the ferry to Oakland. When I saw my husband and daughter, I could not hug them enough!!

Lessons learned?; Always wear walking shoes to and from work. At this time, women were wearing tennis shoes to work; changing into high heels at the office. I don’t know if women still do this but I would strongly advise them to do this!!  Always have plans: A, B and maybe even C. If you can’t get home, try for a friend’s or relative’s. If that doesn’t work, try for some public venue like Civic Center. You need to take some risks: I HAD hitchhiked in my 20’s but I was close to 40. Get those “vibes” in tune again so you can trust whoever picks you up. Be assertive: ask people to use their phones if theirs work. Work together. (this was before cell phones were widely used. But in an emergency, most cell phones will not work) And most of all – plan ahead. Have phone numbers – out of state –  that can connect you to your family. If you have kids, make sure there is a plan for them! I met parents who split up so that, odds in their favor, one of them would reach their kids. Be brave. Keep thinking like a survivor.

In retrospect, I remember that once I disembarked the bus, I was “on my own”. This is the hard truth. One is on one’s own. That is why it is important to think about the options. I saw really important people flaking out at YBI  – needing someone to run out to get their cars – and other people rising to the occasion. I want to be the latter. It is by trial and error that one becomes the type of person who can survive and even be a hero in this type of event.

By Adrianne Borgia

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I turned over, burrowing in closer to my snoring husband. As I turned, my sneaker sole caught on the comforter that I had brought out from the house, and dragged it off my legs. I rolled back, too late, to correct my error, and struck the icy cold bare steel bed of my Dodge D-50. Swearing quietly, I plucked a couch cushion from the foot of my truck bed, and wedged it against the wall of my truck bed. I looked up into the cold night sky, at the dimly twinkling stars. It was a wonder that they were still there, untouched, after what we had been through that day.

Far off, down the canyon, some coyotes yowled up at the night sky. Just under my truck, my two Springer Spaniels yowled back. In some sort of weird canine communal language, they announced another aftershock.

“Hold on!” I hollered out to the others bivouacked in my front yard. The biggest quake of all of our lives, collectively, had hit that afternoon, at 5:04 p.m., lasting 15 eternal seconds. Frightened and needing to gather to share our fears, most of the residents of our little canyon, two of my sisters, (one with a newborn and a toddler) had struck an impromptu camp in front of my little house. For some odd reason, I still had a working phone. We had pulled it out onto the concrete front step, as far as it would go, in case someone was ringing us. Also, we had 15,000 gallons of water in a tank up the hill behind our house, and so we weren’t in too bad a shape. We had talked to our friend, Arn Parker, on the phone that afternoon, getting him home from San Jose via the town of Tracy, since Highway 17 had been closed due to rockslides from the quake. His cell phone had intermittent signal, and we were running CNN and KSBW and KSCO from batteries. We knew what was going on locally, and we could tell him how he might drive home.

The aftershock rolled through, causing my truck springs to squeak. Baby Alisha gave a little cry, and Clover and Watson, the two dogs, whined miserably. I looked over at the power poles that fed the forty horse power pump near my house, and wondered how much more strain the twanging wires could handle.

Unable to sleep, I hopped out of the makeshift bed in my truck, and walked over to use the outhouse on the edge of the raspberry field. As I walked back, I was astounded to hear my phone ringing.

I ran across the gopher-pocked grass, and got the phone on the fifth ring. It was my mother, calling all the way from Kalangadoo, Australia. She and my father had been enjoying a warm beer in a wayside pub, and had heard that we had endured a quake of 9.2 in our sunny central coast home.

“Are the beams down in my living room?” she asked.
“No, but if you had been enjoying your cocktail and reading your Pajaronian today, you would have been buried under the bricks from your fireplace.” I told her. Lori, my sister in law and I had jammed up to their house at the end of the road, shortly after the quake, to make sure the gas and water was off. We had stared in horror at my mother’s favorite chill out spot, buried under bricks, gray chunks of mortar, and bits of ceramic pots from her Philodendrons. If she had been on that couch, she would have been dead.

“Was it really a 9.2?” She asked, fear in her voice.
“No, honey, if it had been, I think we would have gone to hell with some of our meaner relatives. CNN and KSBW say that it’s probably about a 7.1, but they don’t know for sure. We are just supposed to brace for aftershocks, and hang on.”

Mom told me then that she had tried all the other kid’s numbers, and getting no one, had nearly panicked. By some miracle of wired telephone technology, she was able to get me right away, although with the time difference, she might have found all of us asleep. Fortunately for her comfort and security, the aftershocks had awakened all canines in the immediate vicinity, and therefore, none of us was sound asleep. I handed the phone to my sister Betsy, who had wandered over from where she had been sleeping in her Lincoln, parked next to my truck. She chatted with Mom a bit, since she was worried that Betsy’s mobile home would have split in two. Betsy assured her that her mobile home was quake braced tremendously, and had suffered little damage. Two plants, and a few glasses, that was all.

Our house, on the other hand, was a different story, as was Chris and Lori’s, and my mom and dad’s house. Our house was a mess. I had just given up on trying to finish a design plan on my Macintosh computer. I say given up because the day was so hot, and the room where I was working was so hot, that the Mac kept crashing. Three sad Macs in ten minutes, and I gave up.

I went into my kitchen, and put my soufflé in the oven—heated to 350 degrees, so that also helped the house temperature. I walked down to the end of our driveway, accompanied by my two Springers. I got my Pajaronian, and headed back up the driveway. I opened the door, walked in, flopped on my couch, unfurled the paper, then felt the whole house shift to the left. Wow. Then I looked up, to see my giant stitchery swaying on the wall. As if in slow motion, I watched my china cabinet flop open its doors, and the contents march out, crashing. Looking beyond it, my open shelves in the kitchen were marching my wedding china—(Wedgwood, service for 30!) onto the floor. I leapt up, and ran for the front door. As I ran, my bookcase disgorged its contents onto the floor, and I slipped on one of my flipped open photo albums, it’s slick pages sliding across the carpet. Pulling myself up from full, unintentional splits, I raced out the front door, just in time for all the gravel from my tar and gravel roof to shimmy down the back of my neck, into my shirt, which was tucked into my pants. I shoved the dogs back from the house with my knees, yelling at them to get out of my way. They were desperate to try to get “in” to the house. I was desperate to get “out” of there as quickly as possible.

I ran down the steps out into the center of the oval lawn, and was greeted by my neighbor, Tom Halderman. He was pointing excitedly at the grass, and saying “Look, can you believe it, it’s amazing, total liquefaction!” I got that loud and clear. Our entire canyon floor was an old creek bed, mostly sand, and not very stable at all.

I pulled my shirt tail out of my pants, and about 8 pounds of gravel fell down around my feet.

“Why would you have gravel inside your shirt?” Tom asked me, looking at me in a very strange way.

“I always keep it there!” I quipped. The quake seemed to have passed, but the power lines above us were still thwacking back and forth.

“How big do you think that was? “ I asked Tom. He is one of the most well read people I have ever met, and I fully expected him to know exactly what and where and when on almost anything.

“Well, San Francisco’s was an 8 point something, so this has to be pretty darn near that, I would say, but where it was epicentered, well, I just don’t even know. Gotta go!” he said, sprinting for his house.

“Where you going?” I asked fearfully, thinking, where is my family? Don’t leave me here alone! I had watched my grandma have a stroke after a big quake in 1967, and I was scared enough to have one too, right then.

“Well, I reckon that there have to be some pretty hurt people out there, so I suppose I will just jam down to the Watsonville Hospital, and help’em out.”

Tom was a paramedic, studying to become a physician’s assistant at that time, so it was only natural that he would step up medically after a natural disaster. Later I found out that he had been the one to pull Clint Rider from the pile of apple bins that had fallen from the side of Rider’s packing shed where they had been stacked. I seem to remember Clint’s leg had been broken in three places as a result. When Tom came home three days later, he told me of doing an appendectomy on the helicopter pad, and when a chopper came in, pulling the surgical drape over the wound, so decorative bark from the landscaping wouldn’t fly into the wound. Odd humor, but possible, after all. Tom had done this many times, during his surgical duty in Viet Nam.

“Do you think I should go back in and shut off my oven?” I asked him, thinking of the ruined soufflé, and the ruined kitchen.

“Yep, not a bad idea, that one. Power is probably out already though. “ he said, and went into his house, retrieving his keys, and his ready bag. He climbed into his Toyota 4 Runner, and cruised on down the driveway, leaving me alone and scared.

Not two minutes later, Lori, my sister in law, came thundering in my yard, in her totally cool old Volkswagen bus. She clutched the engine, cut the key, and hopped out.

“Jesus H. Christ! Are you okay? Can you believe this?!” She said, storming around the grass, lit cigarette making smoke curls as she gestured wildly with her hands. “My fish aquarium is history, the bookcase is toast, my woodstove, my fireplace, holy crap, what a mess! What the hell do you think happened?”

Just then, Kelly, my little sister arrived, bawling her eyes out. She lived across the canyon from a senior citizen’s mobile home park, and had just witnessed three homes exploding into flames right as she looked out her window. Her baby boy, Jamesie, had narrowly escaped injury as a result of some object falling into his crib. She, too, was alone and shaking—nearly in shock. Baby Alisha hopped out onto the grass, clutching her oatmeal can full of “guys” little rubber Sesame Street™ figures. She was rather unfazed, it seemed. We all stood there, circling around, wondering what would happen next.

By Marsha Marani, Aptos

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