1989 Quake: Where Were You 23 Years Ago Today?

Is the Bay Area better off after the Loma Prieta earthquake? What would you have done differently in rebuilding the region? Are we better prepared for the next one?

At 5:04 p.m. on Oct. 17, 1989, the ground in Northern California shook.

A lot of the area's attention was focused on the World Series game that was about to start between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics, but suddenly sports was insignificant as a 6.9 quake centered at Loma Prieta near Santa Cruz rocked the Bay Area.

In the quaint cobblestone of downtown Santa Cruz — then known as the Pacific Garden Mall — unreinforced brick tumbled, killing two in the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company and a third in Ford's Department Store.

Much of the downtown was deemed unsafe afterward and knocked down. Businesses moved into tents for years of planning, fights and rebuilding.

In addition, the Marina district in San Francisco was set ablaze when natural gas pipelines broken during the quake.

The Cypress freeway in Oakland crumbled, the top layer landing on the bottom layer and flattening the cars that were moving in between.

What do you remember about the day and the time? How has your life changed?

Have we learned from the disaster and are we better prepared for the next one?

Let us know what you think in our comments section.

Lili Rollins October 19, 2012 at 12:20 AM
I had just gotten home from picking up my daughter from St. Philip Neri and was on the phone with someone. We both felt it so hung up and my daughter and I both got under the kitchen table where we watched the dining room chandelier swing to and fro. Pretty scary. The next phone call was from my husband saying he was fine but that he didn't know when he would be allowed to leave Berkeley as all police were kept in the town they were working in to aid everyone. We were very fortunate.
Elle Ghini October 19, 2012 at 05:52 AM
I was a student doing some house-cleaning, up in the hills above Steven's Creek Reservoir. The house had started as a one room hill cabin but previous owners had built out sections over the steep hillside and most of the modern house was on pole foundations. I was finishing up vacuuming the last room-an office, my mind bent on getting out of there on time to make my next call in San Jose -when I felt the rumble and thought "That's a big semi going by on the road." Then it occurred to me, There are sign's everywhere up here that say "No Large Trucks on Montebello rd."- Earthquake! I dove under the desk and heard the sounds of crashing all over the house. Still being in house-cleaning mode, I mentally started swearing "@#%!, I just finished cleaning this place!" A moment later I remembered how precariously the house had always seemed perched on the hillside, and I visualized an indoor sleigh ride to the bottom of the Canyon. It was a bad visual. The house shook and rocked like crazy, but I guess the engineers who had built out on those poles were worth 100 times their weight in anchoring cement and reinforced steel. The house stayed put. I stayed an extra hour and swept and picked up shattered things from all over the house. I was so mad, every time there was an aftershock I pointed at the earth and yelled "Don't you dare think about doing that again!" When I got home that night, my sister had left all damage in place so I could appreciate everything that had happened.
Salena October 19, 2012 at 06:06 AM
I was in Fresno and our house shook! I can only imagine what it felt like here.
HBayR October 19, 2012 at 09:41 PM
I was on the tenth floor of a new skyscraper in the SF financial district. When the shaking stopped, I ran to a phone and was able to leave a voice mail at home in Alameda for my wife. We then turned on the radio to find out how the national media at the World Series were dealing with this and found out how serious the quake was that day. My particular office didn't suffer any damage, but other offices had bookcases fall over, evidently depending upon the direction of the bookcases in relation to the quake. I tried to call my house again, but the lines were now down. Because BART had shut down, I ended up with others spending the night at a friend's house on Russian Hill, sitting around a coffee table listening to a single transistor radio about the quake with the glow of the fire from the Marina district lighting the sky, and eating defrosting popsicles for dinner. The next morning, we learned from the radio that BART had re-opened and my friend drove us under the closed Embarcadero Freeway to a BART station. I quickly made my way back to Alameda after this harrowing experience only to find that we never even lost power in Alameda and suffered no damage at all.
Bay Farm Parent October 22, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Late to the comment party, but I remember the day well. I had left work early because hubby and I were going to watch the Series. (Good thing, too, because I likely would've been on the Cypress Structure when it pancaked.) We had just moved into our house on BFI a month before, so we were half unpacked and the TV was on a rickety TV tray table. When the place started to shake, hubby ducked into a doorway, but I grabbed the TV -- after all, if it fell we couldn't watch the game, right? And being a true California native, earthquakes are no.big.deal. The rolling (it was more of a rolling than a shaking out on Bay Farm) kept going longer and longer, my eyes were getting larger and larger and I was getting a more than a little worried. It did finally stop and I had indentations on my arms from holding the TV so tight. The only other damage was a vase of flowers that fell off the mantle and a crack in our then new front walk way. I did have a friend with a more exciting story, though. She was riding the W bus and the bus had just.gotten.off the Cypress and was heading towards the Tube. When the bus began to rock and roll, she thought the driver had hit a pothole. Yeah, an 7.0 pothole. For months afterwards, every conversation started with, "Where were you during the earthquake?"


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