Saturday, October 17, 2009

Twenty Years Ago Today - Shake, rattle and roll.

I was sitting at my desk at UC when the whole building started to shake. I went and stood under a doorway, feeling like a fool and being mocked by my co-workers. Then, the whole building almost jumped off the ground, the lights went out and they stopped laughing. I looked out the window and saw that people were leaving the building in droves, yet my supervisor wouldn't give me permission to go. Finally, even he realized that the electricity wasn't going to come back on and dismissed me with a snarl. Naturally the buses weren't working so I walked home. When I came over the hill at 17th Street, I saw the plume of smoke over at the Marina. People were out in the street, discussing the quake and some stores were selling candles and batteries. I stocked up just to be sure of having enough. When I got home, I was relieved to find that my old apartment house was still standing. When I turned on my battery operated radio, I heard that we'd just missed the "Big One" by a fraction. A friend of mine who lived in the Marina came to stay with me. The Marina, being built on landfill, was badly hit. She kept her radio on, constantly stoking her fear and panic but I went up to my local church and helped out those who were taking refuge there. I remember the quiet nights and the warm and sunny days with people out during the day light hours. In some ways, my neighborhood, on the edge of the Castro, felt like a holiday. I remember it as a time when San Francisco pulled together. We knew that we'd dogged the bullet and that the next time, the whole city could shake, rattle and roll into the bay. For a time, it made some of us grateful for what we had. The doctors at work thrust out their chests and played macho man; they hadn't been frightened or concerned even though one of the members of the division had been killed and several others injured injured in the Cypress Free collapse.

Another memory of the day here:

1 comment:

Zoomie said...

Must have been an amazing experience. Have you read Art Agnos' essay about it? He has a website you can Google to read about it from the mayor's point of view. I heard him on NPR last week and it was an interesting perspective.