Memories of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake. Since my hometown is just a few miles from the epicenter, it remains a memorable occasion for anyone who lived there at that time. I promised my story yesterday, and here it is.

On October 17, 1989, I was in my first year at Watsonville High School. I remember doing a presentation on Thomas Jefferson for Mr. Goicovich’s English class after lunch. As the bell rang to end the day, I sounded a little smug as I talked to my friend Michelle. “I have no homework tonight for the first time in weeks,” I crowed. “I can finally relax!”

My parents’ 25th wedding anniversary was that day, so my mom had invited a couple of friends for a celebratory dinner. She didn’t need my help for a while, so I went to the TV room. At 5 PM, I clicked on a rerun of The Facts of Life. (Yes, I realize the Bay Bridge World Series was starting. I was young and had misplaced priorities. I’m sorry.) I stretched out on the couch, congratulating myself on the soothing evening ahead. At 5:04 PM, I bolted for the doorway and braced myself as the ground rumbled beneath me. I watched books tumble off the mantel as my mother yelled “There are KNIVES flying!” from the kitchen.

The whole evening was rather surreal. Dinner wasn’t exactly a balanced meal, since the power went out before we could cook the vegetables or other side dishes. Our friends came by to check in, and we all sat in the backyard by candlelight eating the meat my dad barbecued, and chocolate sponge pudding for dessert. We were all, well…shaken. We were very lucky, of course. Aside from some property damage (my mom had taken out the fancy crystal and china for the dinner) and some truly terrifying cleanup over the next week, we were unscathed. I know that others were not so fortunate. (My brother called in a panic to check if my father had gotten home in one piece. Indeed, it would have been disastrous if my dad had left his office a few minutes later than he did. The brick facade in front of the building collapsed in the temblor, and he would have been a casualty himself.)

I’d love to hear other people’s stories in the comments!



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