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Remembering Loma Prieta

Stories submitted to the Exploratorium in 1999/2000

It all happened on the night of January 17th, 1994... a night I know I'll never forget. It was my friend's birthday and also, Martin Luther King's day, and I was celebrating with her, so we went to see the new movie out "The Pelican Brief" (even though I was only 8) =} When I got home I was tired and tried to fall asleep.. but something was bugging me. For some reason, I had this really un-easy feeling in my stomach that I couldn't ignore. I tried to shake it off as just hunger, but I knew something was wrong. I ignored it anyway though and fell asleep early. Little did I know, I should've paid attention to my sixth sense. I woke up suddenly at about 4:45 that morning, hyperventilating, not even knowing why... everything was fine... i'd had a bad dream, but an even worse dream was about to come true. About 5 minutes later, i heard a huge rumbling sound, like a huge speaker was right next to my bed, and someone was turning up the volume.. it got louder and louder, until suddenly, it hit. My room started banging and hitting the ground, my dollhouse smashed to the ground, the windows popped in and out and i screamed at the top of my lungs. The earthquake was over in under 30 seconds, but after the rattling had ended, i was still shaken... and still shaking. My family ran downstairs with the portable flashlight/radio to underneath our sturdy dining room table. I quickly snatched everysingle one of my 15 stuffted animals and escorted them to. I fell asleep again, but was quickly awoken to the aftershokes every few mintues. It was a life-changing experience... which i know I'll never forget, and I doubt anyone who lived through it will never forget it either.

Beatrice Gomberg
Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ USA - Wednesday, March 01, 2000 at 15:14:08 (PST)

In the Northridge earthquake I was sleeping then this rumble came and it sounded like a train and it hited like a car crashing on the walls all the windows "poped" instently and the bedroom begen to creek a loud creek then dust like powder fell down on my head and bed. In the morning i saw my backyard split up and my old swing fell on the floor.

Los Angeles, Ca USA - Friday, February 25, 2000 at 19:37:42 (PST)

I was wlking down the hall to a meeting at my offic.Once I got ther I sat down at the table and heard a low rumbling sound.I said to my self ah, just a truck pasing on the street.Then the ground shook litely, and everyone in my office stopped every thing they were doing. I just said oh!!! its an earthquake!Bt it got stronger so we got under the table. The window shatered and I hered people sceam, I thout I was going to die!!! Peces of the siling fell on the ground. Car alarmes went off every where. It finaly stopped, I never thought it would but it did. It was a close call!!! I hope It never hapens again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Name not given
San Fran , - Tuesday, February 22, 2000 at 14:05:26 (PST)

I was in Seattle celebrating my 20th birthday (which just happens to be Oct 17th) with my parents when we got news of the earthquake. Realizing the severity of quake, we decided to cancel our reservations and kept watching the news. I attended the University of San Francisco and had many friends I was worried about. I had visions of our dorms collapsing since they didn't seem the strongest of buildings in the first place. The news reports did nothing to allay my fears. I felt hopeless watching the news and not being able to help or see my friends.

When I returned to SF I was blown away by the amount of damage. Fortunately none of my friends were hurt and yes the dorms were still standing. I was amazed how some buildings in the city were decimated while buildings right next to them seemed virtually untouched.

I moved back to Seattle not long after that and did not return to SF until 1996. When I went back, I found some homes in the Marina District which were still being repaired from the earthquake. I was impressed (and pleased) the Palace of Fine Arts and Exploritorium were still standing!

I will be returning to San Francisco to celebrate my 30th birthday and plan to be at the Exploritorium on Oct. 17th for the exhibit. It will be interesting to look back on that day and think how much one's life can change. I just find it hard to believe 10 years have actually gone by.

Christian Butler
Seattle, WA USA - Friday, October 08, 1999 at 22:31:58 (PDT)

I had arrived home at 5:00pm - in Oakland - from a job interview in San Francisco that finished ahead of schedule. I had made unbelievably good time via public transportation. Every connection I had to run for; made all the lights. Deciding to call my wife - she was still at work - at 5:03, the line was diconnected about a minute later, having just enough time for her to exclaim, "What's going on?" During the shaking, I held on to the telephone stand for dear life. I'm surprized I didn't fall down. My surprize was compounded when I saw plaster falling from the wall in one or two square foot chunks. After the shaking was finished, I called a relative back east to report what happened, and that I was uninjured. This was within 2 minutes of the quake - and she had just heard about it on national news. At this point, I went to see my wife. The store she worked at was substantially trashed - fallen products, etc. But other than that, and some overtime, she was all right. When I arrived back at home - marvelling at some of the quake damage along the way (bricks having fallen on a car, crushing it - no one hurt.) At this point, I realized that the building foundation had shifted. According to the structural enginneer that came by later, having red tagged the building - had the quake lasted another 15 seconds, the building would have collapsed. I would have been in the building if this happened. The happy ending to this though, was that our daughter was born nine months later - literally 9 months to the day.

Alan J. Horn
Oakland, CA USA - Friday, October 08, 1999 at 16:09:45 (PDT)

I was 17 and living with my mother in a Victorian flat in the Mission District of San Francisco. My mother is from Texas, but I am a native San Franciscan, born and raised. We were both used to the occasional shaker. In fact, just about five years before, my school had a 1906 Quake Survivor come and share his story with us. He was about 5 at in '06, so I think he was about 80 when he talked to us. After hearing his story and seeing photos of the massive destruction in SF, I became fascinated with The Big One.

So at the time of Our Big One, I was in my living room with my mother, who was kicking my butt at Super Mario Brothers on Nintendo. The house start to shake and we laughed, "Uh-oh, got a little quake here!" Then the power went off and my mother started cursing about having lost her high-scoring game.

Then it really started going and we said, "Oh s***!" and I remembered from our school drills to run to a doorway. So my mother and I rushed to our living room door which leads to the hallway. My mother had three eight-foot high bookcases in the hallway, stacked two-deep with books. The bookcases tipped over and showered us with her full library. So we ran back into the living room. And then it was over.
We realized that the last we had seen of our cat Muffin, was when she took off into the hallway, right before the books came down. We started digging through the books, worried that she had gotten caught in the downfall. But she wasn't there. So I looked in the kitchen and there it was: a little wet streak on the linoleum floor left by a very scared kitty running at high speed. We spotted her later in the backyard where she had run from the kitchen to get away from the books.

Our house was mostly intact, it had withstood so many quakes already. The only real differences were that the living room door which wouldn't stay closed, always popping open, now would stay shut. And our building got separated from our front stairs, which were concrete, moving the building about six inches to the right of the staircase. We were very fortunate.

Sappho Faires
San Francisco, CA - Friday, October 08, 1999 at 14:37:52 (PDT)

When the Loma Prieta quake hit I was on the 22nd floor of a highrise building in downtown San Francisco, typing on a computer keyboard. The floor began to shake, and a rising voice called out, "Get under your desks!" For some goofy reason I thought it was more important to save the document I was working on, which I did, just before the power went out.

I remember the floor rolling like the deck of a ship at sea, while out the window other office buildings could be seen swaying crazily. The buildings seemed to continue rocking and rolling for a long time after the ground stopped shaking.

The only battery-powered radio in the office was someone's Walkman, so she wore the headphones and told the rest of us what she was hearing: The Bay Bridge was closed... Big fire in the Marina district (we could see the smoke)... Buildings falling down in Santa Cruz... We had to wait a long time until the security guards got to our floor to escort everyone out. (We were told not to use the stairs.) When we were finally let out, I offered a colleague a ride home.

As night fell, we drove home through an eerie city scene -- the power was out everywhere and volunteers were trying to direct traffic. Later, I realized what an idiot I had been to drive along the Embarcadero. The freeway section that we drove under was very similar to the one that had collapsed in Oakland. It was later torn down due to seismic damage... which was about the best thing to come out of the quake.

San Francisco, CA - Friday, October 08, 1999 at 14:15:15 (PDT)

I was working on the 40th floor of the Spear Street Tower at 1 Market in S.F. I felt antsy and left a little early - before 5:00 p.m. - and boarded the BART train at the Embarcadero Station. Between the Civic Center station and 16th and Mission the earthquake struck. The train was moving and at first I thought the train had derailed. But it was quickly brought to a stop and as it sat there, it felt like two giant hands were lifting the train and rocking it from side to side. Then the power failed and we were plunged into total darkness. But within a few seconds the emergency power kicked on, providing some illumination. The amazing thing to me was that no one seemed to be phased at all by the quake and in fact, just sat there continuing to read their newspapers. Finally a small little man with glasses got up from his seat, calmly walked to the rear of the car, lifted the emergency phone and in an almost apologetic voice said, "Excuse me, can you tell me when the train will be moving again?" After a slight pause he said, "Thank you," hung up the phone and calmly returned to his seat. In about 15 minutes the train was able to move on its own power to the 16th and Mission station. I was very happy to escape out of the tunnel to see the blue sky above. My main fear was that the tube would collapse and water from the bay would drown us all like rats. When I reached Mission street people were standing outside, holding portable radios tuned to Spanish language stations. All the electric buses were dead, having no electric power. Bricks and glass littered the sidewalks. An occasional diesel MUNI bus would roar by, overflowing with passengers. I walked all the way home to Bernal Heights and by the time I climbed Alabama Street to my flat, it was getting dark and I could see the glow of the fire in the Marina District. My son had a small portable television which we were able to plug into the cigarette lighter of our car. Placing it on the roof, we watched the special news reports of the earthquake. Soon the whole neighborhood was collected around our car, peering into the small screen. Soon the entire city was dark, the first time I had seen it that way. Their was an excitement in the air and a kind of camaraderie among the neighbors, most of whom I had never met, although they lived on the same block.

Michael Thomas
Sonoma, CA U.S.A. - Friday, October 08, 1999 at 14:01:26 (PDT)

I was in LA watching the World Series during Loma Prieta. All of a sudden we lost the signal. A half hour later we watching the scene from San Francisco. I was planning to move to San Francisco the next month, even with the quake I had no second thoughts. I guess I was one of the few people who moved in (rather than out) the month following the quake.

Sausalito, - Friday, October 08, 1999 at 12:22:05 (PDT)

I was on my way home to Davis from my Berkeley job, driving through Tilden Park to avoid a stretch of I-80 traffic. The radio was tuned alternately to KQED FM and KNBR so I could hear the news and know when the ballgame was starting. Then the announcer on KQED said something like, "Oh my -- that feels like a pretty strong ..." and the station went off the air. After a moment I switched to KNBR, and heard finally that there'd been an earthquake. I didn't feel it in the car, but I looked for a place to stop, just so I could get my bearings. I pulled into the parking lot at Inspiration Point, and got out of my car. Some of the cars in the lot were still hopping a little. My main concern just then was to see whether the East Bay MUD reservoirs visible from the parking lot looked like they were leaking. I waited 10 minutes or so, exchanging nervous comments with other people there, and when I didn't see any change in the reservoir water levels I got back into the car and made for San Pablo Dam Road. I remember that once I got onto I-80 again up toward Pinole I heard the emergency signal on the radio. After the signal ended, I could hear the announcer saying, off-mike, "What do we do now?" Then began unconfirmed reports that one of the major bridges had collapsed. I was on my way to the Carquinez Bridge, probably the oldest of the area's major bridges, so I started working out alternate routes in my head in case the bridge wasn't there. The radio news confirmed that it was the Bay Bridge before I reached Carquinez, but I still kept an eye on the roadway ahead of me as I crossed, and I remember repeating the "Our Father" all the way across, over and over. The rest of the way home I watched the road well ahead of me for collapsed overpasses (there were none). At a gas station in Vacaville I tried to use a payphone, but couldn't even get a dial tone. I was crying grateful tears by the time I got home, relieved to be with my family again and to see that they were unhurt. We watched the TV news -- something pretty unusual in our house -- over and over again, the same pictures and the same frightened voices, til we figured it wasn't doing anyone any good and shut it off. It was a week before I drove down to Berkeley again. Another story related to me by a friend was that her insurance agent had been at Candlestick for the ballgame, but after the ruckus when he got to the parking lot his new red BMW was missing, probably stolen. Somehow or other he got home. A week or more later, he was sitting in the den watching TV when his wife answered a phone call. A somber-voiced police officer confirmed her name and the name of her husband, and then told her that her husband had been found dead in the collapsed Cypress Structure. It eventually turned out that what the police had found was the body of the car thief, crushed in the flattened BMW.

Jim Coats
Knights Landing, CA USA - Friday, October 08, 1999 at 10:48:01 (PDT)

I had just driven across the Bay Bridge and was working in Oakland in the second story of a building. The building shook quite hard--it was on reclaimed ground from the bay--and I had to hold onto the Computer I was working on to keep it from falling on the floor. the whole thing lasted about 30-45 seconds. I remember a guy visiting from Michigan asking me if this was normal. I told him we had earthquakes all the time and not to worry. Then he noticed people running outside in the parking lot. We had the radio on to listen to the World's Series. We heard the Bay Bridge, the Bridge I was going home on had collapsed. So had another freeway. When he heard that, the guy from Michigan said "to hell with this, I'm getting out of here and ran outside." At that point I decided to quit working and go home. It took 5 hours of driving around other bridges to back to San Francisco. And I still had 20 miles to get home to Burlingame, a suburb south of San Francisco. All the traffic lights in San Francisco were out. They just flashed red. So traffic was jammed. Driving through San Francisco, I could see flames light up the night sky in the Marina district. I was almost out of gas, and there were no stations open. Luckily, I picked up a guy who was hitchhiking. He knew a route along the beach that didn't have many lights. I got home that night with almost no gas in my car. My wife cried when she saw me. She was sure I was on the bridge when part of it collapsed. Since the earthquake and the collapse of the Cypress Freeway, traffic has been horrible going into San Francisco--even 10 years later.

Dale McIntire
Walnut Creek, CA USA - Wednesday, October 06, 1999 at 16:40:38 (PDT)

To years ago I went to my aunt's house and there was a earthquake and I was sleeping the house was shaking my aunt ran out of the house and forgot me in the house and had to back in to get me out of the house .We almost fall in the pool but then the shaking stop and we didn't fall in the pool.

Shannon Begay
Lancaster, U.S.A. - Wednesday, October 06, 1999 at 13:41:57 (PDT)

I was home sick that day, Oct 17, 1989. At the time, I lived with my wife and my first newborn, his name "Andreas". We were already jumpy from several quakes that occured in the weeks before, one of them in the 5.0+ range. We live in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the town of Boulder Creek, just a few miles from the faultline, and as it turned out, about 15 miles or so as the crow flies to the epicenter. I just turned on the TV to watch the baseball series, not really a basefall fan but nothing else going on. Within a minute of laying down it hit. Starting with one really big bang that seemed to eminate from one of our walls. My wife was standing at the edge of the sofa, Andreas was asleep at my feet on the opposite end. We both looked at the wall that made the noise, then suddenly it was obvious that it was a really big quake. I scooped 2-month old Andreas up off the sofa and ran outside, my wife right behind me, her hand on my back. We had to go through the kitchen and as we did, all the silverware and other metal objects in the kitchen cabinets were bouncing, as if we were on some kind of giant vibrator. We managed to go out the 'already-open' backdoor and on to our lawn. It was then that I felt safe. It was still moving, however, and we watched in amazement at our neighbor's house as its river-rock fireplace bounced over and over against the house, finally dropping and crumbling into a pile of rocks. It then stopped. The sound that eminated from the ground during those seconds, probably something like 15 seconds, was really errie. Our rented house had minor damage, but we never again spent another night in it. Too much fear inside us, we went to a family cabin in the Sierra, far enough where we could not feel the aftershocks. I used to like earthquakes, thought they were neat while I grew up. Now even little ones have me on edge.

R. Dunn
Boulder Creek, Ca USA - Tuesday, October 05, 1999 at 16:56:32 (PDT)

October 17, 1989: Monterey, CA - After school I sat at home alone with the cat on my lap. He did something very strange when he relieved himself on my lap and ran into the hallway. In a moment I heard a deep rumble which turned into an overwhelming vibration. The house started to shake and judder and it took me a long moment to realize this was an earthquake. It lasted long enough for me to do the stupidest thing, and run to the window. I wanted to see if the ground really rolls in waves as I'd always heard. Sure enough, it did. The ground swelled and dipped like ocean waves in a storm. I marvelled at the sight. A half-hour later my parents came home from a walk and asked what had happened. They, for some wierd reason, didn't feel it but they did remember hearing the sea lions go berserk.

Studio City, CA USA - Tuesday, October 05, 1999 at 15:07:28 (PDT)

This was during the Northridge quake in West L.A. near LaCienega and Wilshire. I woke up within maybe two seconds of the quake beginning, jumped up and turned on the light and got in my doorway. I was looking down my hallway and could see the whole house moving. It sounded (and felt) like each corner of the house was being lifted and dropped repeatedly. The light bulb in my ceiling light exploded and as I heard an awful lot of breaking glass the power went out. Certainly the worst one I've ever been in, and I've been in alot of them.

Robert Harris
Denver, CO USA - Tuesday, October 05, 1999 at 14:57:46 (PDT)

Our home, a French Second Empire building on the National Register of Historic Places, fell down 6', west 6' and south 3 feet in the first of the triple earthquakes to hit off Petrolia in April 1992. We were out of the house (which was built in 1874, and only lost a chimney during the '06 EQ) for 17 months. We have a much better foundation now. :-)

Ferndale, CA USA - Monday, October 04, 1999 at 14:34:28 (PDT)

My computer shooked.
Then the screen went black.
Then harddrive and the power system went out.
There was broken glass and computer parts everywhere.

Devin Wilson
Woodacre, CA - Monday, October 04, 1999 at 12:59:29 (PDT)

Marvin Delgado, Well it was about 5:45 maybe 6:00 in the morning when all of a sudden I heard my mother scream "esta temblando". Thats spanish for its an earthquake. At the time I sleep in a bunk bed which I shared with my sister. I sleep in the top bunk. But when I heard my mom yell I flew down and ran outside, and I started looking at the cables outside in the back of our apartments. When I noticed that there were blue spark's flying off of them. When I noticed that I knew this thing wasn't all that small. Later that day I turned on the tv and watched all the damaged it made in the area where it hit the most and that was just bad. I was also there during the 86 or 87 one but for got what it was called. This one I just described was the Northridge.

Marvin Delgado
Irving, Tx usa - Monday, October 04, 1999 at 11:32:09 (PDT)

I experienced both loma prieta, i was only 5 yrs. old then,
it was scary,the tables were low, we got into the center.
i experienced northridge earthquake too, that one was scary,
i slept on the 3rd floor,i invented my own seismograph too!!

Jennifer Olsen
Raleigh, nc usa - Saturday, October 02, 1999 at 16:15:04 (PDT)

I was born, raised, and haved lived most of my life in the Midwest, where we sweat tornadoes more than earthquakes, so I'm one of the few people I know who has experienced both. I was in California on business and was in my room on the seventh floor of the Hyatt-Irvine in June of '92 when the Landers quake hit about 5 AM. I distinctly remember that my first thought as I woke up was "Why is the water sloshing in the toilet?" Then, as I was literally rolled right out of the bed, I realized what it was. I know a lot of people got hurt and lost their homes, but my next thought was that the sensation was kind of cool. I knew the hotel was a very new structure and built to all of the proper codes, so I was safe enough to take my time to get dressed and walk calmly down the stairs and outside. There I saw a whole herd of guests all demanding to check out immediately, swearing they would never go back in.

I went back inside after about 30 minutes of talking to people and watched the local news coverage (mostly just that consumer reports guy David Something calling in from his Big Bear cabin), then decided that I could still go visit Universal Studios that day. I drove up there and had a great day (the expected crowds were nonexistent). One ironic note: the only attraction closed that day was the earthquake ride.

Tom Slick
Detroit, MI USA - Friday, October 01, 1999 at 19:35:54 (PDT)

I was at work when it hit. At first, I thought it was just a tremor. But then rwo sharp jolts made me think again. I was trying to keep a computer from falling off of the desk, but then realized I should get in a doorway. I was looking at my co-workers. We just stared at each other in amazement. The cars in the parking lot were rocking back and forth, and I swear I saw the ground waving like water. When it was finished, I was so pumped up it was so exciting! I was in a one story building, so I was'nt scared. Of course hearing the reports on the news wasn't good.

Most people said it took them hours to get home. I got home in 30 minutes as opposed to the twenty it usually took me. When I got home, there was almost no dammage. the spice racj tipped over, but no dishes or anything fell out.

I was working and living in Santa Clara at the time.

Rob Fitzsimmons
San Jose, Ca USA - Friday, October 01, 1999 at 14:28:32 (PDT)

I was at work when the Loma Prieta quake struck, just opening the door to my car in the parking lot. I couldn't seem to let go of the door, yet it kept swaying back and forth hitting the car next to me. Fortunately, no damage was done to either vehicle. On the way home, I had to stop at an intersection and direct traffic - people were in a panic and pointing in every direction. I played traffic cop and got things moving again and was able to continue my short journey home. It seemed that every time I stopped my car, it started shaking again - I assumed that was aftershocks, but it was probably myself shaking. Once home, I was distressed to find the inside of my house totally trashed. In my kitchen, the spice cabinet had opened spilling all of my spices onto the kitchen floor, then a bottle of Worchestershire Sauce fell into the pile and broke spewing smelly, brown liquid all over. It was a frightful gooey mess that took two days to clean up. The house itself was not damaged, but everything in it that could fall down did. Books covered the floor of one room so that you could not even walk into it. Cabinets and shelves came down and I lost many trinkets and treasures that way. The only place we could sleep that night was in my son's room - and you couldn't tell if the earthquake had affected his room or not (it always looks that way!). The worst part was watching TV over the next several days and being barraged over and over with disasters. We were all very shaken after that and it took much longer to recover than it would have if we had just picked up and carried on without being reminded every few minutes. We kept the TV on in case there was important news or alerts, but it was just sensationalism over and over again. I'm not looking forward to this next one, though I fear it will be soon.

Pat Lowers
Cupertino, CA USA - Friday, October 01, 1999 at 13:56:33 (PDT)

I was in Boston, on the phone with a friend when my
housemate yelled from the other room. I ran in to see the
harrowing first pictures of the damage from San Francisco.
My whole family was there and for more than a day, I was
petrified for their lives. Getting through by phone to CA
was just impossible. Six days later, I arrived in Santa
Cruz to help my friends clean up. The devastation there
was heartbreaking.

A few years later, I was in Los Angeles the morning of the
Northridge earthquake. In an eerie moment, I awoke with a
start just before the worst shaking began. In the darkness,
I clutched my pillow around my head and for the first time
in my life truly feared for my life. Fortunately, people
were OK in that house, and my years of earthquake reminders
came in handy in dealing with the damage and dangers. Los
Angeles seemed very shaken and the aftershocks were a
regular reminder.

John McDonald
Kamuela, HI USA - Thursday, September 30, 1999 at 22:29:16 (PDT)

i was only a couple years old when it happened..the quake of '89 hit and i was playing in my backyard pool. the ground started to shake and the waer in the pool splashed everywhere..i was screaming and screaming...then it ended..

Lauren Hartman
Antioch, ca USA - Thursday, September 30, 1999 at 17:24:27 (PDT)

I was 16, and my leg was in a cast in 1971 when the Sylmar earthquake in L.A. hit. We lived very close to the L.A. airport. The fog outside seemed surreal. It was almost dawn, but the usual chirping of birds was missing. Our cat was hiding under the house. Then the rumbling and shaking. It felt as though our small house was riding the back of a bucking bronco.

This was my first earthquake experience. We moved to California from New York at the end of 1969. Hobbling on crutches toward the doorway, I accidently did the right thing. I stood under the doorway and grasped the door posts when my crutches fell.

After the quake subsided, I checked on the rest of the house. My mother was sitting on the floor of her room after being thrown from the bed. My brother was trying to support his precious stereo system by holding it up with his arms and back, looking like a bad impression of Samson. My father, stood at the kitchen counter making his lunch. He insisted on going to work.

My mother begged him to stay home, but he said: "A man has to do what a man has to do! If the freeway is gone, I'll turn around and come back." Not even an earthquake could stop my father.

Merle Levy
Sacramento, CA USA - Wednesday, September 29, 1999 at 14:24:13 (PDT)

In 1989 I was working on Front St. in the Financial District. I worked at a market research firm conducting surveys and political polls. I was talking with someone on the phone, in mid-survey when I felt the first rumble, I stopped talking for a second. The person on the other end of the line was saying Hello? Hello? Then I felt a strong jolt. I said "oh, Shit" She said "excuse me?" THen the building started shaking and the phone and electricity went dead. I thought I was going to die. When it was over we all walked out to the sidewalk. The building across the street had partially collapsed. There was rubble and dust everywhere. I walked home through SOMA with a friend. We were nervous and dazed. The streets were crowded with people. Electric buses were stopped in the middle of the street. Cars couldn't move for all the people walking. Some guy was holding up bricks from a fallen building saying "earthquake souvenirs, five dollars"

Shannon Stice
Oakland, ca us - Wednesday, September 29, 1999 at 11:50:25 (PDT)

I was just visiting my aunt when it hit. I can't remember what happened, I was just five. She died.

Mary Jane
New York, NY United States - Wednesday, September 29, 1999 at 08:52:15 (PDT)

I was asleep in bed before the Northridge quake. I was living in West Los Angeles, just south of the 10 freeway. i woke up with a start as the P-shock rocked me out of bed. Then the fun really started. The S-shocks tore my apartment to shreads. Everything in the kitchen was distroyed and everything was off the walls. Thank God the 80 gallon fish tank didn't tip over but the apartment looked like a tornado hit it. We were without power for a week and gas for 3 weeks! I had to get used to cold showers for a while. The scariest part of the earthquake was hearing the 10 freeway crumble and fall just 4 blocks north of our apartment. It sounded like a giant was crushing rocks with his feet. We could hear cars screeching to a halt in order not to fall of the suddenly colapsed overpasses. Luckly no one did, but north of Northridge a poloce officer lost his life when the overpass he was on collapsed. This earthquake was the scariest thing I've ever experienced, yet there is always something positive to be found amid such destruction. For the first time in my life, my neighbors came by to check on me, we cooked for each other on a portable stoves, and helped each other through our fear and anxiety. It was amazing to be in LA and see people caring for strangers, and just helping out their fellow humans.

William Laine
Phoenix, AZ USA - Tuesday, September 28, 1999 at 17:55:16 (PDT)

I live in Santa Cruz about 5 miles from Loma Prieta, the epicenter of the 1989 earthquake. I was at work when it hit, sitting at my desk talking to a friend who had just gone to Mexico with me. It was time to go home, a few minutes past 5 when it hit. The building was rolling but solid and the cars in the lot were "hopping" around like little Tonka toys. Some people were in a state of panic and those of us not frightened tried to comfort them. Many did not speak English and I speak Spanish so I let them know we were all going to be OK. Many didn't drive and they were terrified about their children so I packed them in my Honda hatchback and drove them home to check on their families. I got home to my house a few hours later to find only the big plate window in front broken and a few knick-knacks on the ground. All the fireeplaces in the neighborhood were in rubble. Later I would find that our beautiful downtown lost many buildings of brick too causing 3 deaths. It was so sad to read the stories later of how they were working or shopping and just couldn't get out in time. We felt lucky in spite of our loses, to be ok. We lost power, water, and the phones were so busy we couldn't get calls out. My friend in Australia called in the middle of the night and told me more info than I knew since he had been watching it all on their news. Various friends had lost housing so we and other friends took them in. One friend set up a few tents in their yard behind their apartment along the river and we all hung out there telling tales and drinking the wine I had received on my birthday. There was a run on the liquor stores as everyone wanted to calm themselves down I guess. There was no wine or beer in the whole town. My birthday is Oct 3rd so I had received several bottles at my party and still had them. The Earthquake brought people in the community together. Sitting on that river, cooking on camp stoves, sipping wine and visiting with friends was comforting companionship.

Jan Warne
Santa Cruz, CA USA - Tuesday, September 28, 1999 at 09:48:02 (PDT)

I was about four years old, living in San Francisco, California in the year 1989. That morning my dad was driving to work with my mom, my aunt, and me in the car. We were driving down Fulton St. when all of a sudden the car started to bounce. I thought we were going over a bunch of potholes, but when I looked out the window the street was rolling up and down like hundreds of waves. My dad then skidded around in a circle and started to drive back home. I looked to my right and all of the brick buildings were on the floor. A man was standing in the pile screaming for help. I was terrified. When we got home, there was a huge crack that started on the top of my front steps all the way to the bottom. My grandmother had the front door open. She was waiting and praying for our safe return. I will never forget that horrible day.

Pacifica, CA United States - Friday, September 24, 1999 at 16:57:17 (PDT)

When my bed, thats on wheels,goes from wall to wall and when the bed passed the window and the trees are bending,then the loud crash of dishes falling to the floor. Thats what happen to me in July or Aug of 1951 in L.A.it was a 7.6 or 7.7 Earthquake I can't remmber. It was the Tehachpi Earthqucke. The next morning I told my husband we had a Earthqucke, he said no we did not, then I ask hem, when you went to bed last night, the bed was on the North wall and this morning it is on the South wall and the dishes are on the floor. Yes, you got it,he slept through the Earthqucke.

Doris Moore
El Cajon,Cal, U.S.A - Thursday, September 23, 1999 at 13:35:48 (PDT)

I survived the 1989 earthquake. We were living in San Jose at the time. I was only 3 years old. (Now I'm 13) I was sleeping on the couch. I remember my mom picking me up and going over to sit on the stool next to our two brown chairs. She hovered over me making sure NOTHING fell on me. I also remember the CD's falling off the shelf like dominoes. I also remember everything falling off the shelves except for our TV. The quake lasted only a few minutes but it was the most scariest minutes in my life. I then remember looking outside after the earthquake was over and seeing the trees still moving back and fourth violently. After everything was done shaking we went around the house to check everything out. Everything that could possibly fall off the shelves did in every room except the two TVs we had. The power was out until around 10:00 P.M. In the meantime we went around and cleaned up around the house. We threw away all the broken items and we cleaned up all the shattered light bulbs and other glass things that broke. During this earthquake my dad was on the road with one of his friends that just moved here from Arizona. My dad said that when the earthquake started his truck started to jump around. His friend wanted to get out of the truck but my dad made sure he didn't. Then afterwards when my dad got home he was wondering why my mom didn't call him. Then he realized that we had cordless phones!

Anthony Hoppe
Atwater, CA USA - Wednesday, September 22, 1999 at 15:42:31 (PDT)

I was leaving work but still in the Embarcadero Center on the 21st floor. The building started to roll back and forth as I realized what was happening .Everyone ran for the stairs and walked down 21 flights to the street. It took five hours to get home in Pacifica. My husband was walking from Union Square and saw flying glass and streets buckling. Fortunately no one in our family was hurt. We were very lucky indeed.

Kay Frizell
Guerneville, Ca. USA - Wednesday, September 22, 1999 at 14:17:01 (PDT)

I lived in Desert Hot Springs, California when the Landers earthquake happened on June 28, 1992. I had lived in California since 1969 and had never experienced an earthquake of this magnitude before. In my 2 bedroom home I was awakened at 5:00 a.m. by a sound I had never heard before, a loud freighttrain barreling down on my house. Then the house started shaking, I lay in bed for it seemed an eternity until the shaking stopped. The shaking probably lasted one minute and a half. When it stopped I got out of bed and shut the gas off at the main and looked for any structural damage, there was none but in each room where furniture was against the wall the intense shaking made indentations on all the walls of where the furniture was. The cupboards in the kitchen did not open, nothing fell out in the kitchen, however in the living room my etegere with all my knickknacks fell over and some were broken. The aftershock at 8a.m. of 5.2 seemed more intense than the 7.8 initial quake. I was happy I didn't get hurt and there were no injuries in the desert as it is less populated. If that had happend in San Bernardino or Los Angeles it would have been devastating.

joyce rowin
chicopee, ma usa - Wednesday, September 22, 1999 at 12:11:25 (PDT)

I was in the 1989 Earthquake. I had just finished my teaching job at Charles Drew Elementary in San Francisco and was on my way to pick up my 2-year old daughter. I had to cross the Bay Bridge since I was living in Berkeley at the time. I remember crossing the length of the Bridge shortly before 5pm. I remember thinking it was strange that there wasn't much traffic, especially at that time of the day and then realized that it was probably because everyone was at the World Series Game at Candlestick Park. My husband had take a day off from his internship at East Bay Mud to go study in the library at SFSU since he had a big exam coming up. Chances are he would have been under the part of 580 that collapsed. When I got to my daughter's childcare provider we talked for a few minutes before the rumbling started. Of course, neither of us or the other parent that was there realized immediately what was happening. There was a split second delay in our reaction and then we took cover under tables or doorways with the few kids that were still there at this hour, then went home. I remember being amazed at the relative calm and organization on the street. Drivers were being courteous and respecting each other's right of way since all the traffic lights weren't working. I remember being worried out of my wits as news of the disaster started to come in over the radio. I started to get worried about my husband and was relieved when a friend came by to tell me that he'd called but wouldn't be able to get home till the next day. There was no way to get to the East Bay from San Francisco. During the last few weeks of recent earthquakes in Turkey and now in Taiwan I think of the '89 earthquake and am again in awe of our relative insignificance when confronted with the vast power of nature.

Elisa Waingort
Quito, Ecuador - Wednesday, September 22, 1999 at 12:01:15 (PDT)

I was in the backyard while it happend and I just watched how the house move back and forth, it was really cool.

do not put on aol
Bakersfield, CA United States - Wednesday, September 22, 1999 at 11:26:47 (PDT)

we were living in scotts valley,a suburb of santa clara county. our closest town was santa cruz,,s.c was wrecked stores on pacific ave unsafe for public,effectively out of biz..(today it is busier than ever)
we had a small old farm house in horse country..near borland's campus..scotts valley is a pretty place,,.the was so old that over time it had settled well,but it shook
the central spot loma prieta was in the adjoining hills.
our water supply/well/was broken..hooked up rubber hose from water tank in pasture, and by connecting it to hose bibb,it was a reverse pressure,forced the water backwards into the house..it was not a terrible experience .the whole world slowed down, we enjoyed the talk radio shows,the absence of electricity feels calming..the cars were parked ,the family enjoyed the company of each other,,the worst part of the quake was the first big after shake (5.1)was scarry ..it was happening again...the world went back to its busy self within 10 days, we were out looking at the damaged santa cruz. our favorite dept store (orig 1920's design) fords dept stores in watsonville and santa cruz were destroyed...we moved to a beautiful spot in wash. near the border of canada british columbia..the silicon valley today is the hottest place to live,more people ,more expensive than any where in the world.life goes on. you have a lively,attractive site...

birch bay, wa whatcom - Wednesday, September 22, 1999 at 02:05:42 (PDT)

I experienced the Loma Prieta quake on the 2nd story of a 2-story office building on bay land fill in Redwood Shores. Redwood Shores is part of Redwood City, 25 miles south of San Francisco and about the same distance from the epicenter. The building shook tremendously, sending heater ducts, computers, file cabinets and any other loose item flying. Two things come to mind, the power going out and the noise the building made, it was undescribable. I was 26 years old and grew up living on the San Andreas fault in Woodside. I had felt several small quakes, but this one really made me realize the power and force a quake has, hard to believe it wasn't the big one. To finish this story, the most amazing thing was the fact that at my apartment, 2nd story of a 2 story complex, was intact, not even a picture had fallen off a shelf. We lost about an inch of water from our aquarium, but that was it. My apartment was in San Carlos, less then a mile from my office building and was built on solid bedrock. What a difference a mile can make.

Greg Goben
Rohnert Park, CA USA - Tuesday, September 21, 1999 at 09:04:24 (PDT)

On 10/17/89 I was on my way to a 5:00p class at San Francisco State University from the dorms. As I walked across the street dividing the campus from the dorm and service building area, I noticed the reflection of the sky in the windows of Burk Hall rattling. Having grown up in the flight path of an airport, this seemed like an everyday sort of occurence until I realized I heard no jets overhead. Just then, I felt a wave roll under my feet, right through the "solid" asphalt, from my right to left. The wave was big enough to vibrate the telephone poles like plucked guitar strings. By the time I got to class, we all knew it was a strong earthquake, but actually debated whether to have class anyway. I remember feeling disappointed we ended up cancelling class that day. As the evening wore on and the initial reports of the Bay Bridge falling down came in, and especially going back to the dorms, seeing the buildings emptied and dark and hearing how badly Verducci Hall was trashed, it was apparent something quite serious had happened. I helped distribute popcorn and bread from the Dining Center and blankets to the students sitting in the parking lot waiting for someone to tell them they could go back into their buildings. The enterprising guy who worked the candy shop in the Student Center made a killing selling ice cream from a handtruck. In the next few days we organized a huge effort to get all 500 of the newly-homeless Verducci Hall students tripled up in the other two dorm buildings and the conference center.

Michael Norelli
San Francisco, CA - Monday, September 20, 1999 at 17:18:17 (PDT)

I have lived in California all my 38 years, so I remember quiet alot of Earthquakes. The first really big one I remember was back in 1971 I believe. I was about 10 years old, living in Huntington Beach. I remember waking up in my bed which was sliding from wall to wall and my mom going totally crazy. There were many smaller earthquakes in between the next really big one in 1989. I was living in Oceanside at that time. We had just bought a new home in June of 1988 and had my first son in June of 1989. My husband and I woke up to a great rolling motion, it seemed to last longer than any other quake I'd been in. We spotted several cracks in the walls of our new home, but nothing serious. I remember turning on the news and I could not believe the damage in San Fransico. We used to travel quiet often to Northern California crossing the Bay Bridge. I just thanked God that we weren't on it at that time! Our next trip was in Dec. I remember driving over the roads and being amazed at how wavey they were. The last biggy was the Northridge quake and I was still living in Oceanside and quiet a bit closer to the center of the quake. It felt very different from the Loma Prieta quake, almost like a bang, quick jolt. Again the news media coverage was unbelieveable, so many Freeways colapsing, and so close to home, freeways I often traveled. I now live in Northern California (almost Oregon) where we don't experience too many earthquakes.

Lori Marcinek
Smith River, CA USA - Sunday, September 19, 1999 at 21:34:32 (PDT)

I am writing to tell you my husbands account of the Earthquake. He was traveling down highway 17 when the earthquake hit. He was traveling south when he thought they were getting a flat tire. Then he noticed the road rippling then it started rolling. The road then, started to crack and they just stomped on the gas. Bolders started rolling down the hills and trees started falling right behind them. He said it was just like a movie where everything was falling just after they would pass.

Wendi Hill
Morgan Hill, CA US - Sunday, September 19, 1999 at 21:11:31 (PDT)


SAN LORENZO, CA USA - Saturday, September 18, 1999 at 20:22:47 (PDT)

I and my three kids were at home. I had just finished cooking dinner for them. The kids, having learnt earthquake drill at school, did just the right thing and dived under the breakfast room table. My eldest, then 9 years old, had invited a friend to dinner, so he was under the table too. I remember being glad that my family were all home and I could SEE they were alright. My husband was on business in Boston, so safely out of the way. I tried to brace myself in the kitchen doorway, but kept getting thrown out by the quake. The only other thing I cn remember about the time during the quake was seeing water from the swimming pool shoot up about 5 foot in the air.
Two hours later, we and all the neighbours seemed to come to. We all found ourselves out in the road, checking our houses for damage. It took us a while to realise the water pouring down the road was not from a burst water main, but everyone else's pools had behaved like mine!

We had only moved to Los Altos 2 months earlier from the U.K. and I have to admit possibility of earthquakes did figure in our decision to come back to England.

The house was undamaged structurally, being made of wood, I suppose it bent. There was a small brick wall raised flower bed in the garden. The bricks sheared in half. The pool developed a couple of minor cracks, but really we were surprisingly unaffected, except for the psychological aspect - my three year old would not leave my side for a week, even to go to the loo, and of course my and everyone else's stomachs lurched whenever there was an aftershock, and there were a lot!

I visited the Science Museum in London a few years later and braved the "experience an earthquake" exhibit. It seemed pathetically tame. The mind knows the difference.

Janet McBride
Bristol, England - Saturday, September 18, 1999 at 09:32:22 (PDT)

I am about 17 years old and still do remember an earthquake.I was eight years old back the and lived in San Francisco with my family.I was in Rivondel elomentery school when this happened.I was having a tootering class when it happend.Class was all well untill the floor started shaking.Iquickly hid under the white counter.I reamember it so well.I saw a white lamp fall next to my laidy tooter.

Sali Baquiran
Belmont, Ma North America - Thursday, September 16, 1999 at 14:37:04 (PDT)

I was in the South of Market area of San Francisco -- an area I later learned experienced soil liquifaction. I was walking near a large plate-glass window and noticed the reflection distorting wildly, although I couldn't feel the ground shaking. I moved away from the glass, and that's when I felt the quake start. It was small at first -- I thought it was a good small jolt like the ones we used to have all the time in SF, which are actually kind of cool. But this one just kept going, seemed to stop for a moment, and then in an instant it was huge. I think the sound that came with the big waves is the most terrifying memory I have: the earth roared, and it was monstrous. Glass started falling onto the sidewalk, so I ran toward the opposite side of the street, but glass was falling on that side too, and people were screaming and dropping down. As I turned to run back, I saw sheets of dirt plunging down the building facades and hitting the ground in huge billowing brown clouds. It seemed to be raining glass everywhere, so I stayed in the middle of the street and covered my head with my arms. That's when I looked up -- down the length of the street -- and stopped dead in my tracks at what I saw. At the end of Mission Street near the water is a tall thin skyscraper -- it's white with blue glass, and was brightly lit with late afternoon sun. My mind went blank as I stared up at an astonishing spectacle: this huge building, wiggling wildy like a long curvy snake. It was like the "rubber pencil" trick, where you shake a pencil in air, creating a wiggly optical illusion -- but this was a skyscraper! When the quake finally stopped, everyone was frozen in place and the air was choked with brown dust. It seemed dead silent, yet I could hear people sobbing nearby, voices shouting in the distance, and car alarms were sounding near and far. As I ran back to my building, everyone was still frozen in place -- I was one of the only people moving -- somehow this added to the horror.

J. Fowler
San Francisco, - Thursday, September 16, 1999 at 11:29:11 (PDT)

In 1989 I was in Palo Alto. The day of the earthquake I had just gotten my brakes fixed and was driving home. I had just crossed a major intersection (Embarcadero and Middlefield)when my car started swerving and lurching. I just had time to start mentally cursing the mechanics when I noticed that every other car I could see was pulling over. I assumed they were trying to avoid me, until I noticed the telephone wires swaying. By that time I had pulled over myself and it started to sink in.
Later it struck me, as I listed to others' stories, that the earthquake made it possible to construct a sort of map of friends' and acquaintances' whereabouts at a specific instant--one was in the Safeway parking lot, packages in arms, another about to dive into a swimming pool, a third just leaving her house, her key in the door--in a way that no other event could do.

Philip Casella
Palo Alto, CA US - Thursday, September 16, 1999 at 10:48:51 (PDT)

It was my first year at UC Santa Cruz, and I was in my dorm room at Porter when the quake hit. Took me a few seconds to get into full emergency reaction mode - since I'm a native Californian, you tend to give an earthquake a few seconds before you decide to freak out. Since it kept on going and getting stonger, I decided to follow the routine and place myself in the doorway. By then, the hall was beginning to come alive with students moving to the doorways, or just getting out of the building. Everyone gathered in the field next to the dorm. Some people had brought radios from thier rooms, and news was passed around as we waited to hear whether we would be allowed back in the buildings or not. Other students had grabbed drums, and various other instruments, on their way out and in true Santa Cruz fashion, an evening drum circle ensued. I recall a strange sense of isolation and tranquility. The campus is on a hill, out of the center of town, it's own little city, and as a first year student, I didn't have much connection to what might be happening in the city of Santa Cruz at that moment. I just remember sitting in the field, listening to the drums and watching the sun set into the ocean. There was little damage on campus and we were allowed to go back to our rooms that evening to call our families and friends back home. Apparently, before I was able to contact my family, my little sister was being quite adamant that they get in the car and drive up to Santa Cruz and make sure I was okay. I was a litle surprised, and very touched, to hear such concern in the voice of someone who, in years previous, had shown little restraint in letting me know what a pain I could be. Altough we were allowed to sleep in our rooms that night - the great cinderblock structure that is Porter Dorm, was deemed safe - I ended up sleeping the in the field with friends I had made who were from parts of the US where earthquakes are not usual occurrences. One friend, David from Chicago, got a little loopy, and even had trouble sleeping in the field, worried that another earthquake might open up some sort of sink hole, or crack in the earth's surface, which would swallow us whole.
Unfortunately, the story of the city of Santa Cruz was not as calm as my experience. There was extensive damage in the downtown area, people where hurt, and a good deal of the history and charm of that area was laid to rest.

Jessie Gauld
- Wednesday, September 15, 1999 at 14:48:11 (PDT)

October 17, 1989, i was only 9 years old. i was sitting on the living room floor playing Operation when the ground started to shake and the t.v went out. my mom started yelling "Get under the doorway!" i wasn't sure what was going on, but I got under the doorway and cried as things around me started to fall...it was the most scariest experience

Hayward, Ca usa - Wednesday, September 15, 1999 at 00:23:48 (PDT)

I had just gotten back to my rental apartment from signing the title papers on a brand new condo. I was just sitting down to relax and reflect on the fact that I had just committed myself to a HUGE set of payments (no more rent for me!) when it hit. Everything started shaking. I lept up and ran under a doorway as the place shook. A very large rack of CD's was about to fall over. I reached out and steadied them. It wasn't too bad where I was located (in Parkmerced in the Sunset district).

After the shaking stopped (seemed like about 15 seconds or so) I went outside to check on the neighbors (lots of elderly in the neighborhood.) I made sure that they all checked for gas leaks. None... Some windows were knocked out of the highrise apartments nearby and I got the kids riding bikes in the vicinity away from the buildings in case of aftershocks.

Then I remembered. I had just committed myself to a new piece of property. I was up there in a shot. Fortunately all was well. I then drove to Millbrae to check on my parents. They were fine. Even had electricity! I decided to stay for dinner and watch the news reports come in on TV. That's where I learned the horrible details of all those poor people who lost their lives in the Cypress Structure. I felt very lucky.

Having notyhing to do the next day, I decided to cruise in to the Exploratorium and see if I could be of any assistance. The museum had come through the quake very well considering how aweful the damage was only two blocks away. I helped wire in emergency phones and started cleaning up.

Ron Hipschman
Daly City, CA USA - Monday, September 13, 1999 at 21:50:01 (PDT)


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