Tuesday, October 17, 1989. 5:04 PM.
I was 11 years old and lived with my family in Dublin, California.
On that afternoon I was out with Bruce, and my little sister. Bruce was our elderly neighbor who lived across the street. He was an ex-cop turned realtor. He liked hiring us to promote his new business. We’d canvas local suburban neighborhoods, distributing his fliers door-to-door.
Anyhow, I was walking down one side of the street. My little sister on the other side. Bruce was slowly driving his car in the street a few yards behind, keeping an eye out.
It was Indian Summer in Northern California. Unseasonably hot, no clouds, very quiet, and with almost no wind. It’s what some people call ‘earthquake weather.’
I’d just left someone’s front porch after putting a flier in their mailbox. I walked back onto the sidewalk, fliers in hand, making my way to the next house.
Suddenly I felt myself swaying.
What the heck?
I stopped dead in my tracks.
For a second, I thought I was passing out!
It made sense – we’d been walking in the hot sun for hours.
But I wasn’t overheated or dehydrated; I wasn’t fainting.
And then I knew…
But I didn’t panic. This wasn’t my first earthquake, I knew just what to do.
I stepped off the sidewalk and walked into the center of the street. Away from the houses and parked cars and power lines.
Now most earthquakes are over pretty quickly.
But this one wouldn’t stop.
It just kept going…
It went on for so long that I actually had time to get my bearings, and to think about what I was experiencing.
I looked southwest down the street, towards the epicenter. The street was long, flat, and straight. It had an unobstructed view for almost a quarter mile.
As I gazed down that street, the black asphalt shimmering in the sun, I saw the quake’s full power.
The Earth was moving like the sea, rolling and pitching like waves in a storm. And then those seismic waves passed directly under me, almost knocking me off my feet. I was on solid ground, but it felt like I was surfing.
And then the sounds hit me. I couldn’t see the people in the houses around me, but I could hear them. Babies shrieking. Women and kids screaming in fear. Men yelling. Dogs howling. Glass shattering.
Parked cars rolling and skidding down sloped driveways, right into the street. I watched as a strange man grabbed my kid sister and carried her into the safety of the street.
And then it was over.
We were all in shock – we’d never been in an earthquake that big. Luckily I wasn’t hurt – and my family was fine, too. So it wasn’t a bad experience for me.
But unfortunately, many people in the Bay Area were not OK.
The Loma Prieta Earthquake was horribly destructive…
It measured 6.9 on the Richter scale.
And it destroyed big chunks of San Francisco, Oakland, and other Bay Area cities.
66 people died and over 3,000 were injured.
The earthquake caused over $2.19 Billion in damages (in 2015 dollars.)
And this earthquake was the first one ever broadcast live on national TV. That’s because Game Three of the World Series was being held at Candlestick Park in SF at the exact moment the earthquake hit. Of course, the ‘Battle of the Bay’ between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics was postponed for ten days following the catastrophe.
You can watch game footage from the quake here:
The Loma Prieta earthquake was one of the most intense experiences of my life.
The memory seared itself into my brain like a brand.
I saw the awful power of nature up close; I learned just how destructive it can be.
And it’s not something I’ll ever forget.
Have you ever survived a major natural disaster? Tell me about it in the comments.
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