Friday, October 17, 2014

25 years gone

Note: This post has very little, if anything, to do with what I write. If that bothers you, feel free to skip ahead.

October 17, 1989. I've taken time off work to watch the first game of the World Series, the first one for the Giants in 27 years. I've settled in on the couch in the little room I've rented in an apartment in San Francisco's Richmond district, TV and snacks at the ready.

Then, I feel the shaking. Instinct kicks in and I move to the doorway of my bedroom, figuring it will stop in a few seconds. It doesn't. It's the Loma Prieta earthquake, later measured as 6.9 on the Richter Scale.

A large, heavy wooden bookshelf takes up most of the wall space between the wall and the room's only window. When I say large, I mean at least six feet high. There is a board underneath the front of the shelf to keep it leaning back against the wall. It holds my comic collection, and lots of other things. And as I watch from the doorway, the quake brings it down, the top hitting the couch I had been sitting on.

As the shaking stops, I survey the damage and somehow wrestle the shelf back into place. I crawl over spilled boxes and damaged comics to get to my portable radio. I turn it on and hear about the Cypress Structure, the Bay Bridge, the fires in the Marina, the scope of the quake.

And as I start to clean up the mess, it hits me. If I hadn't moved when I did, if I had stayed on that couch, I'd have been under that shelf, injured or worse, with no one else in the apartment to find me and no phone.

There are many reasons why I'm glad to be telling the stories of Michiko and Beth and sharing them with you. And one of them is the fact that I had the sense to do something wise when the quake hit. It's the fact that I'm even here at all to tell the stories. And I'm grateful for that chance, more than words could possibly say.


  1. Glad that the shelf didn't hit you, Robert, and that we can enjoy your stories.

    I remember this earthquake well, even though I was half a world away in Germany at the time, because I had a very spooky experience when it happened.

    I was a teen girl at the time and went to the local autumn fair with a few friends. One of the new attractions was a sort of earthquake and disaster simulator. While waiting in line, I blabbered about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake all the time. And once we got out of the simulator, which proved to be disappointing, like such rides usually are, I was still blabbering on that "San Francisco 1906 it was not."

    On the way home, I heard on the news that there had indeed been an earthquake in the San Francisco area that very day, which I found somewhat spooky. But I put down my weird insistence to talk about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to the fact that the outside of the earthquake simulator had been painted with the pictures of San Francisco.

    A few days later, I went back to the fair, this time with my parents. We also walked past the earthquake simulator and I got a big shock, because the cityscape painted onto the ride was not San Francisco at all, but obviously New York, including King Kong climbing the Empire State Building. So why had I been so convinced it was San Francisco a few days before?

  2. Thanks for dropping by, Cora! Spooky story. Maybe you were so used to associating earthquakes with San Francisco that you just assumed that the cityscape was SF instead of New York? Our brains play tricks on us sometimes...

  3. New York was a weird choice anyway, since that's one city that doesn't have earthquakes. But then, the people who paint fairground rides usually aren't known for their accuracy.

    1. Or they think King Kong causes earthquakes.