I can tell you exactly where I was. I was home alone. My father was working late and my mother and brother had gone to visit my grandma. I was a high school sophmore and I was pleased to be home alone. I sat in my dad’s recliner and kicked the legs up and had just turned on the television. I found something I wanted to watch..the show escapes me now but as soon as I got into it- the television shut off. I picked up the remote and tried to turn it back on. Our neighbors across the street had the same tv we did and sometimes they would end up turning off our TV (really it happened!). I thought they had done it again so I tried to turn it back on…since it was still light at that time I didn’t realize that our electricity had cut off. Then…the shaking began…I hopped out of the chair (leaving it still reclined) to get away from the plate glass window. All those earthquake drills in school told me to get to the kitchen and hunker down under the table as it was the strongest piece of furniture in the house. The shaking was so bad I couldn’t make it that far and ended up taking shelter in the door frame in the hall. From my vantage point I could see my parent’s computer shaking so violently in their bedroom that I was sure the desk was going to break. In the kitchen the chandelier was swinging back and forth and nearly but not quite touching the ceiling on the swings. The cabinents in the kitchen swung open. Drawers opened in the bathroom. Those 15 seconds seemed to last a lifetime.
You probably saw it on the news. Quickly dubbed the Loma Prieta earthquake- it was a big deal because of all the damage in San Francisco…and because it was the third game of the world series between Oakland and SF. You probably saw photos of highway overpasses pancaked, of the upper deck on the bay bridge collapsing onto a lower deck. You probably saw the extent of the damage before we did…our particularly area was without electricity for 28 hours. We were lucky. There were parts of the area without power for over a week.
What you probably didn’t see was our neighbor coming over to make sure we were ok…knowing that we wouldn’t see my dad for days at a time (he is a utility worker for the power company)….that we had food and water (grocery stores were closed and word was our water supply may be contaminated (it wasn’t)…and a way to cook (barbeque!)…that we were ok for now. This wasn’t an isolated incident either…not just one neighbor…all neighbors checked on each other…several times throughout the week. People shared batteries, radios, candles, food, and most importantly…comfort. It is what struck the teenage me the most. Not the damage…but the beauty that sprang from it….the fostered friendships. The closer relationships with neighbors…some that you knew…and new ones that you maybe didn’t know before. Sad that sometimes it takes something as devastating as a 6.9 earthquake to break down the fences we live behind.