Remembering the Loma Prieta Quake on its 30th Birthday

14 minutes past the 5:00 evening hour on the 17th day of October in 1989 could have been yesterday. It was a Tuesday, and flag football practice on a Mitchell Park field concluded minutes before. Dusk was settling in for the night. I was riding my 4th grade, 10-speed, turquoise Peugeot along with Jon and Stephanie – we were in route to her house where we would wait for Dad to meet us, load our bikes in the back of his pickup, and drive home.

The unearthly deep, booming growl that bellowed not from the atmosphere like thunder above but from the solid layers under foot was the first warning. The sudden, achy rumbling grew in strength, volume, and velocity – swallowing our imagination and capturing the collective attention of our home state.

A small, blue truck shook violently as if someone, something, had mustered all its might to rock it viciously back and forth, dribbling it like a basketball, against the curb. It bounced obliviously as if it were a fraction of its weight. The street before us rippled like it was built of silk ribbons – malleable, twisting free form at the slightest encouragement. Rising, falling in erratic disarray. We didn’t wait to see it settle back into place. Returning days later, I found it scarred with deep cracks and pocked imperfections. Eventually, it would require repaving.

The endorphins rushing blood through my veins signaled to every muscle fiber in my being, “MOVE!” And we did. We pedaled with fierce determination to reach our destination. As we rounded the final corner toward Stephanie’s house at the end of her col-de-sac, a neighbor exited his home and onto center stage. “This is not the big one!” He exclaimed repeatedly from the spot light of this spontaenous drama. I screamed in exasperation. “What the hell?” I thought, “If this is not the ‘big one’ I don’t want to know.” This barely felt survivable. I couldn’t fathom the idea of taking comfort in the assumption that something worse – a horror we were fortunate enough to escape today – was looming on the horizon.

We made the final climb up the driveway, dropped our bikes, and sprinted through the house to the dining room table. We simultaneously dropped to the floor and took cover beneath the sturdy, wooden planks.

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