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Were you in the Loma Prieta earthquake in ’89? Share your story with us: Where were you? What were you doing? How did it affect you?


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  1. Jennie October 13, 2009 Reply

    I was underground in SF waiting for the BART train to take me home to catch the World Series. People kind of scattered, but after the shaking stopped, everyone got back in line! I think we could feel it as strongly down there, but maybe we didn’t have the visual cues that people who were outside did – when it was clear that BART was shut down, I made my way back up to the street and saw this girl crying, and I sort of thought she was being overdramatic. I didn’t know about the Bay Bridge, etc. yet.

    I didn’t get home until midnight that night – I finally caught an AC Transit bus that went over the Golden Gate and Richmond-San Rafael bridges.

  2. Charles Barragan October 13, 2009 Reply

    I worked in downtown San Francisco and was getting ready for an aerobics class in a basement workout studio just under the Transamerica Pyramid building. After the shaking stopped, I went back to my office, since all I had with me were my workout shorts and tanktop. Good thing I was in great shape, I had to quickly walk up 23 flights to get to my work clothes, house keys, and wallet. My co-workers heading down the stairs thought I was insane to un-evacuate the building, but I had no choice. In walking from downtown to the Mission District it was a very surreal transit, with the air deadly still and people walking about in half-shock. Once I made it home and made sure the homestead was relatively intact, I grabbed a burrito from the last open taqueria, headed to a 16th Street bar which had a generator powering the premises, and drank many a tequilla sunrise before heading back home.

  3. Karren Jamaca October 13, 2009 Reply

    I was working in the Autopsy department at Stanford University. The shaking started and people started gathering in the doorways. We were all looking at each other saying, “this should be over by now, this should be over by now”. The ceiling tiles started falling and a woman down the hall started screaming. File cabinets tipped over and the copy machine fell to the floor. You could hear glass jars breaking. It turned out it was the specimens in jars of formaldehyde in the autopsy room. I left the building in an attempt to get home to my kids in Pleasanton (ages 5 and 10). My husband was out of town (and mad that he missed the quake!) I got to the parking lot and my little Toyota truck had bounced out of it’s parking space into the driving area and the windshield wipers were half-way up the windshield. Traffic was at a standstill. I tried to get back in the building to try to call someone to go pick up my kids (this was before the days of cell phones), but the test tubes of viruses had broken in one of the labs so they wouldn’t let anyone back in the building. I sat in the parking lot trying to figure out how to get home when I heard on the radio that the Bay Bridge had collapsed. I wasn’t sure if the Dumbarton was safe – so I sat there for about an hour before I headed out – it took me 4 hours to get home. The next day I returned to work to evaluate the damage – it was that moment that I became a huge advocate of seismic bracing.

  4. Andy Evangelista October 15, 2009 Reply

    It was a gorgeous day – one of the warmest of the year (in October!). I left work (UCSF) early in the afternoon to head to Candlestick Park for World Series game. As I dashed out, I was teased by Dolores Stewart, who worked in Chancellor’s Office, next to mine (News Services). I was a Giants fan, and Dolores, an East Bay resident, was an A’s fan.

    I was in the stadium, walking to my seats in the upper deck, when the quake struck. After shaking stopped, few knew how bad it was – even with power out, many thought game might still go on. On my handheld, portable TV, I saw images of collapsed section of Bay Bridge, and that’s when I realized the seriousness. Everyone got the heck out, although in an orderly fashion. (I saw Jose Canseco in full uniform at a gas station on the way home.) It took an anxious couple hours to get home to my kids, who were with a sitter.

    UCSF campus was closed next day – only health care and emergency personnel reported to work. I received a call in the morning from my boss, asking me to come in because we were expecting media calls. When I got to work, I was briefed — and shocked: five UCSF employees were killed and a couple others severely injured when their vanpool tumbled off the Cypress Freeway in Oakland. Dolores Stewart, the last person I talked to when I left work that previous afternoon, was one of those who died in the van. Like every other weekday on that van, she and the others were just trying to get home to Alameda.

    A plaque near the UCSF Medical Center memorializes the five UCSF employees who lost their lives on Oct. 17, 1989.

  5. Larry Fitzgerald October 20, 2009 Reply

    I was at the World Series game. We had taken our seats out in the center field upper deck for only about 10 min when the quake hit with a jolt. The sections of overhanging cement roof were moving around quite a bit and a few small pieces of concrete were coming down. I recall it went on for about 15-20 sec, and except for the structural noise, it was silent. After it stopped fans clapped and cheered. Then, in a couple of minutes the fans started singing the Queen song, “We will rock you.” After several strong aftershocks and about 15-20 min the electricity was still off and we heard through radios (no WiFi or iPhones back then!) that part of the Bay Bridge had collapsed. Everyone left the ‘Stick in an orderly manner, and I made it back to my townhouse in San Mateo in about 90 min. People were driving down 101 at about 15-20 mph! The evening was warm, so we sat in the car in the driveways and listened to the radio. The power came on at night and we stayed home the next day to clean up some mess (tipped over plant mainly), but no real damage. Except for the Cypress structure, Bay Bridge section, Marina fire, and damage around Santa Cruz and the south bay……much of the Bay Area was relatively untouched.
    BTW: the As eventually won that 3rd game 13-7, although the Giants made is a little interesting with 4 runs in the bottom of the 9th.

  6. George Zamora October 20, 2009 Reply

    In 1989, I was a first-semester freshman living in UC Berkeley’s Unit 3 dorms. When the Loma Prieta earthquake hit, I was already sitting underneath my dorm mate’s raised bunk bed, fiddling with a cassette player installed there. I decided to remain under the bed until the shaking stopped, and then proceeded to have dinner in the downstairs dining commons. I did not think the earthquake was so bad (partly because I grew up surviving earthquakes in Los Angeles and partly because the dorms are built on rollers). Nevertheless, I encountered numerous crying students and people frantically trying to make phone calls. I thought to myself, “These people must not be from LA!” It was not until after dinner that I sat down in the recreation room to watch the news that I realized the true power of the earthquake and the damage it caused: collapsed section of the East Bay Bridge, burning autoshop nearby, lost lives…. That experience greatly sensitized me to the need for earthquake and other emergency preparedness.

  7. Sally September 17, 2010 Reply

    I was on the 9th floor of the Kaiser Center. Even though the building is on rollers I knew it was bad. I remembered thinking that I hoped we were at the worst place because I did not want to think about it being any worse for others. I immediately called to the sitter’s house to check on my infant son. I then tried to call my husband and the phone went dead in the middle of the ringing. My boss offered me a ride to her house. I remember being amazed at the devastation around downtown Oakland. There were people wondering around in the streets in a daze. One woman started back into a building that looked like it was about to fall down. We intercepted her and told her not to go back in. About 6 months later my dad shook the gazebo we were all sitting on and I almost jumped out of my skin. Some jokes aren’t that funny.

  8. Linda Ashcraft October 13, 2010 Reply

    I had crossed the bay bridge and was sitting in the lobby of the Embarcadero Hyatt Regency, preparing some remarks for a speech I was about to present. I first heard the sound of glass breaking. I looked toward the bar, thinking that a tray of glasses had been dropped. The two-story steel sphere sculpture, suspended over the fountain, began rocking. It appeared that it would break off the one, thin steel rod to which it was attached. Since I was sitting immediately under the sculpture, I began to move toward the door. As I began walking, the glazed brick floor was undulating in waves. It was surreal, as I was literally stepping over “the waves” to reach the doorway. At this point all the lights went out and the smell of burning electrical wiring was apparent. By the time I reached the doorway, along with several others in the lobby, we could hear glass breaking on the streets. We were told to remain in the building to avoid being hurt by falling glass or concrete. From the Hyatt we could see the bay bridge and the collapsed section, which again produced a feeling of disbelief. Eventually, we were allowed to exit the Hyatt. I met up with several friends and we traversed the city by skirting the Marina, crossing the Golden Gate and the Richmond bridges to eventually return home to Walnut Creek and my two children that were in the good care of our babysitter.

  9. Emily Montan November 16, 2010 Reply

    I was grading papers from my third grade class in Washington, DC. I was watching Andy Griffith (the law show he was in) and the news broke in about the quake. I had 4 friends living in SF at the time, so my partner and I were frantically calling them to see if they were okay. From an outsiders perspective all we saw was the cars falling through the hole in the Bay Bridge, the double decker freeway and the fires in the Marina. So the assumption was that everyone was in danger. At about 1 am (4 am PT) we got through and everyone was pissed that we woken them up. Apparently, most SFers had no idea of the extent of the damage so didn’t understand why outsiders were so worried.

    It delayed my moving here until 1992 (I was going to move in 1990).

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