So it's the 30th Anniversary of The Quake. The Big One. Loma Prieta. Whatever you want to call it. Everyone who was around then has their own memories and stories.
At 5:04 pm Oct 17th, 1989 I was on the soccer field at Lowell High School having football practice. I was a sophomore at the time. I can still visualize the way the basketball hoops were swaying. We were used to quakes, growing up in SF, but this one was different. It didn’t stop! It rumbled endlessly. The longest 15 seconds, ever. We didn't feel in danger out on the open field, but we knew it was a big deal. Honestly, I thought it was kinda neat. The next hour is kind of a blur. There was no power, so we couldn't go back into the locker room to change, and someone said something about a gas leak. Either way, we hung out around the school for a while. Somehow, someone found a radio or walkman, and started relaying news reports. Only ABC was on the air at that time, I believe, everyone else trying to get their power or station back up. Someone said "the bridge is down"... and the inner 11-year-old who saw Beyond Thunderdome just conjured up images of the Sydney Harbor bridge, snapped in half. How fucking cool would that be?
Incredibly, and I could be wrong about this, one guy produced a Watchman portable TV. I think it was him, I just remember him holding it. We could finally see what was happening! I saw my first images of the Bay Bridge and... was disappointed. I didn't think about someone possibly having died, I just saw one little section down and deflated. Yes, I'm terrible. I was also 15.
Now I'm not sure what happened next. I guess we got the all clear to go home or I just ended up leaving. I lived fairly close to Lowell. My classmates may remember it as way TOO close, so I walked home. Our power was off, but we didn't have an electric garage door anyways. There was no damage in the garage, and I went to check my stuff. Well, my room was trashed. The wobbly dresser I used to keep my TV and Nintendo and stereo on had fallen right over. The TV was trashed. The ancient analog stereo system was just fine. That thing was a brick. I righted the dresser, stood up some shelves that had fallen, and checked the rest of the house. My grandfather was home by then. At the time of the quake he had been parked near West Portal waiting for my grandmother to arrive via Muni from downtown. He and I checked out the rest of the house, and there wasn't too much. One porcelain statue they had brought back from India or Hong Kong had fallen over and cracked a bit.
Our neighborhood was populated by a lot of older folks, and a few i knew lived alone, so my grandfather sent me to check on them. I went door to door. Mrs Bohegian first, Mrs Jacobs, Mr Katz, just helping lift some cabinets that may have fallen or sweep up some shattered china. It started to get dark, and still no sign of my grandmother. We hadn't heard word of any injuries in the Muni system, but we also knew it wasn't running. We didn't know if she was stuck in the tunnel or was downtown still. No cell phones, and I don't recall if the phone lines worked.
As normal, people congregated outside. My grandfather let me back our car out and turn the lights on so the block could have some light for people. Finally, after what seemed like hours, my grandmother came strolling down street from Sloat Blvd. She had walked from somewhere far, I think the Castro district, or Church street. I just still can't fathom walking over Twin Peaks like that. Maybe time has inflated that memory. I couldn' tell you.
So that was THE day. We went to bed soon after. I don't know when the power came back. We didn't see any of the destruction that day. Not yet. We didn't know about the Cypress freeway falling down. We didn't see the fires in the Marina as people I knew from school lost their homes. We missed out on the lady trying to jump the gap in the bridge. All I knew is I didn't have school the next day, so what trouble could I get into? No TV meant no Nintendo, so I'll call Sunil and see what he's up to, probably go hang with him all day.
Which leads to me next post for tomorrow.... Stay tuned.