This Saturday (October 17, 2009) marks the 20th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake. Everyone who was in the Santa Cruz/SF Bay Area has their story of where they were, and KQED’s Forum call-in program had a great hour yesterday. It’s been long enough ago that for my students (juniors and seniors in high school) the earthquake is now only history. Following is my story of life with Loma Prieta.
When the earthquake struck at 5:04 PM, I had just returned from my workday delivering bread for Uprisings Baking Collective. We baked in the basement of Casa Zimbabwe, a four story building in the Berkeley Students Cooperative. My general reaction to earthquakes is “Cool, feel the shaking,” and that’s just what I did for the first several seconds of Loma Prieta. After several seconds (5, 10, 15??), my earthquake drill training started to kick in as I realized this was not ending as quickly as usual. I headed for the door between our office and the hall, placing my self in the “safest place in the building.” There were probably about 5-10 of us in the bakery area, and I remember some people were heading outside.
When the earth stopped shaking, we all sort of said “Wow, that was big,” and headed back to work. Nothing had fallen off shelves, or any other obvious damage, so we had bread to bake and paperwork to complete.
A few minutes later, the bakers started saying that they had heard on the news that the Bay Bridge had fallen down. “No way” I thought, they must be exaggerating (in the end, “fallen down” was a bit of an exaggeration, but part of it had). Some of us headed up the block to the Pacific School of Religion (at the top of Berkeley’s “Holy Hill”) to see what we could see. I remember seeing smoke from the SF Marina District, but not much else is in my memory (we probably could see the smoke from Hustead’s Towing in downtown Berkeley, but I can’t remember this).
I finished up my paperwork, and left the bakers to their work. On my way home, I stopped by my sister’s apartment (on Vine, just west of Shattuck) to see how she was doing. She was fine, and I faintly remember hanging out for a while with her and some of her neighbors/friends, watching news on the TV.
In the course of the next few days, at the bakery we had to redesign our routes to get to SF, Marin, and the Peninsula using the Richmond/San Rafael and the San Mateo bridges. I think we took a couple days off, but were quickly back getting food to the people. At one point I heard that an organization that cooked dinners for people with AIDS needed help getting prepared food from West Oakland BART to the Red Cross center in Oakland (they were cooking it in SF, then bringing it over on BART). Our vans, with their racks, were perfect for this, so I helped out for a couple days after work. I remember lots of vans showing up at the BART station, shuttling the food to the Red Cross.
As I drove around the Bay Area on my bakery route (I drove our SF/South Bay routes), I was able to get a tour of the minor destruction area (the heavy destruction areas were closed off). I remember seeing many houses damaged in the Richmond and Sunset districts in SF.
That about sums up my memories at this time. I’ll probably come back and add more as the anniversary refreshes my memory.