My experience 30 floors up during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake

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Y’all:

Some chapters from a book I wrote about my life. My oldest son and his family give me a "Storyworth" subscription so I could put things in writing. The main reason for the gift was that my grandkids live in my childhood home and go to the same schools I did. The original focus was to write stories about the old neighborhood, knowing my grandkids are playing on the same streets and walking the same sidewalks I did.

Of course there were other exciting things that happened in my life, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake being one of them. Warning, I copied and pasted these chapters from my master copy. I did a quick scan but there may still be some profanity here and there.

Keep in mind, I was 30 stories up in Embarcadero #4 when the earthquake hit.

Enjoy,

Scott
====

WILL DEATH HURT?
In 1989 the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s met in the World Series. It was called the Bay Bridge World series. Game 3 of the series started Tuesday evening, October 17 1989. Nearly the entire Bay Area region of 10 million people were watching the game. I wasn’t a baseball fan so I, along with about a dozen other colleagues, used the opportunity stay in the office and catch up on business.

With so few people in the office it was pretty chill. About 5 PM I started packing up. I walked to the elevator lobby and saw fellow colleague Michelle S. standing there. Happy to see her on my way out I remember swinging my briefcase forward and back in wide arcs, acting like a dorky cartoon character.

While waiting for the elevator we exchanged some friendly chit chat. And then........BOOM! The entire lobby jolted with a powerful, rumbling blow. Michelle and I knew instantly it was an earthquake. We retreated to a corner in the lobby and crouched down over the floor side-by-side with each other. I remember putting my right arm over the top of her body to help steady us. All h*** was breaking loose!

After that initial jolt the building swayed like a stunned boxer on the verge of going down. Then, about 4 or 5 seconds later - BOOM! An even larger jolt hit us. But now it was a constant series of jolts and the building was getting hit blow after blow in quick succession. I remember Michelle and I pressed our heads together to further brace ourselves. I vividly remember hearing Michelle grunt repeatedly in absolute terror, but she never screamed! I'll always love her for that!

The building started swaying wildly from side-to-side. I’ll never forget the sounds. The building protested and made deep, structural groaning sounds like those of a sinking ship in a movie. I vividly remember thinking the building was going to fall sideways and crash down to earth like a tree being blown over in the wind. I remember wondering whether Michelle and I would float weightless until we finally crashed to earth.

At this point the thought crossed my mind that we might actually die. Remember, we’re 30 floors up. They say when a person is near sudden death their entire life flashes before them in an instant. That was not my experience. Instead, I vividly remember wondering exactly what was going to kill me and whether or not I was going to suffer any pain. My mind raced at light speed. I actually remember thinking that, regardless of how I might die, there would only be a few moments of terror and pain before it was over.

But just an instant later, falling sideways to our deaths became a lesser concern. Delivering yet another blow – and the worst one so far - and one seemingly in a different direction than the others.....BOOM!!!! The entire floor of the building began shaking up and down like a trampoline. This one caused a large section of the ceiling in front of the elevator doors to come crashing down, light fixtures with exploding bulbs hanging by their metal electrical conduits. Ominously, the brass elevator doors jerked and open and closed randomly in front of us, exposing bare elevator shafts, as if they were beckoning us forward so they could swallow us alive!

As this point I was fully convinced we were going to die. The floors were going to pancake down one by one on top of each other until our 45-story tall high rise was reduced to a 6-story tall pile of rubble. Let me assure you, when you truly believe you are just moments from death - wait for it, wait for it - it’s a serious head rush and is something you’ll never forget. This was that moment for me.

But then, thankfully, after about 15 seconds, it was over.

SEARCH AND RESCUE
Michelle and I fled the lobby and went back to the office areas to check on others. I remember being amazed at the chaos and destruction. The dozen people still there were chattering with high energy communication, asking if others were okay. Debris was scattered everywhere. Cubicle partitions were knocked over and half the ceiling was on the floor. Most surprising was the damage caused by falling furniture. Given the nature of our work, we technical folks had dozens and dozens of 3-ring binders of reference and instruction manuals. Our fine wood bookcases were loaded from floor to ceiling with them. The earthquake caused the book cases to fall over and literally bury the other furniture inside.

We quickly realized that someone might be buried at their desk. We searched each office, looking for victims. I remember how heavy things were. It took strength to dig through these debris piles to make sure no one was buried underneath it. Fortunately, no one was.

After 10 or 15 minutes of search and rescue, all of us met in the elevator lobby before heading to the emergency stairwell. The doors to the stairway were locked so that people could not enter the floors from the stairwell. I vividly remember walking into the stairwell, only to see a line of people crowding the stairs, slowly descending one step at a time. It took 15 or 20 minutes to reach ground level, and other than some quiet muttering I do not recall there being any obvious fear or panic. People were surprisingly calm.

THE BAY BRIDGE COLLAPSED
Finally reaching ground level and walking outside was a huge relief. At first glance things looked pretty much undamaged. But closer inspection showed ornate concrete facades on the older buildings had collapsed onto the sidewalk in basketball sized chunks. I remember looking around to see if people were crowding around some hapless victim who got hit with this falling debris and lay there dead on the sidewalk.

Seeing nothing I turned to head towards nearby Justin Herman Plaza. This would take me to a more open area, somewhere safe from falling debris. On my way I came across someone who was holding a small battery powered television. This person was holding it above his head so others could see. He was shouting the news updates to the surrounding crowd. Then I heard him say, “The Bay Bridge has collapsed!”. Holy s***, this was even worse than I thought!

Embarcadero Four was adjacent to the Bay Bridge. I walked down the block and over to the wharf area to take a look. The bridge was still standing! Thank God!

By now the sidewalks and streets were absolutely packed with people. On a normal day most people remain in their buildings. But today, everyone was outside at the same time. I was dumbstruck by the large number of people. We were d*** near shoulder to shoulder.

THE EPICENTER WAS WHERE?!
I finally made my way over to Justin Herman Plaza. With nothing more than dumb luck I came across a half dozen of my colleagues. We collected ourselves and surveyed the situation.

The Embarcadero freeway, a double decker freeway like the Cypress structure (which had collapsed), was already packed with motionless cars that weren’t going anywhere fast. Broken water mains flooded large areas of the street. But we didn’t see any collapsed buildings and nothing near us was on fire so we were feeling pretty good about things. The main topic of discussion was where the epicenter was and how long it was going to take us to get home.

My good colleague and next door office neighbor, Steve V., wandered off and returned with a grocery bag full of snacks and soda. Doing something thoughtful like this was typical of Steve. Adjacent to us was a guy with a transistor radio. He was reciting news updates to those around him. The magnitude was first this, then that. The epicenter was first here, then there. The facts were constantly changing.

And then he said, “They now say the epicenter was in Los Gatos and all communication to that area has been lost!”. My colleagues turned to me, knowing I lived in Los Gatos. I told them I had to go. I’d figure out a way to get out of there somehow.

AUTOMOTIVE GRILLS
It was a short walk to where my car was parked. One of the perks I got was my own personal parking place. That was golden in The City. My spot was under Embarcadero #3 - four levels underground. I walked over to the entrance to the garage area, debating for a few minutes whether I wanted to go down there. Given the magnitude of the earthquake we were having several noticeable aftershocks per minute. Nothing as big as the original earthquake, but strong enough to hear a rumble and feel the ground move under your feet. It felt like you were standing on a dockside boat that was being rocked by gentle wakes.

By now it was dusk, probably about 6:30 or so. It was too far to walk home so into the garage I went. The different garage levels were accessed via a central circular driveway. When I got to the second level I realized the emergency lights weren’t working. It was getting dark in there! I continued down the circular driveway to the third level. By now it was almost totally dark, but I could still make out faint silhouettes on the brightwork of some of the cars that were parked there.

But when I got to the fourth level it was total darkness. Adding an electrified sense of fear to the darkness were the aftershocks. While underground I heard and felt several in quick succession. The rumble coming from the earth was absolutely surreal. I vividly remember thinking if the building collapsed they would never find my body, not even a tooth. I had to make this quick.

I knew exactly where my car was but I was four levels underground in TOTAL darkness. Would I actually be able to find my car under these frightful circumstances? I made it to the row of cars I thought mine and began feeling grills until I found our Volvo grill. Success! But there was one little detail that concerned me. Right under my driver’s side door was a drainage grill. I remember thinking to myself, “Scott, DO NOT drop your keys down the drain in your rush to get out!”

I’ll never forget the sense of relief that I got when I unlocked the door and opened it. The interior lights were a welcome sight! With that, I started the car, turned on my headlights and got the h*** out of there. I raced up the circular driveway, my inside rear tire spinning and squealing. Thankfully no one was walking down there like I had earlier. I honestly think I might have run them over in my haste to get out.

MY ESCAPE FROM SAN FRANCISCO
I quickly found my way to the lower level Embarcadero freeway. Progress, but traffic was at a dead stop. No sooner did I get to what was essentially a parking lot, then did I realize the Embarcadero Freeway was seriously damaged. I could see the supporting legs for the upper deck were cracked so badly that rebar was exposed and large chunks of broken concrete littered the ground underneath. Could a mild 2.5 aftershock cause the upper deck to collapse on us?

Eventually I navigated my way out of the city. Power was out everywhere and I don’t recall there being a single working traffic light. People were outside their homes and workplaces, flooding the street with humanity. My travels saw me pass though Hunter’s Point, which was the ghetto of San Francisco. It took me 2 or 3 hours to get out of there and onto Hwy 280. It was total chaos.

I’VE GOT TO PEE!!!
It was a huge relief to finally get on Hwy 280 and make real progress home. Even though the situation allowed otherwise, traffic was moving at a 50 to 55 mph pace rather than the normal 75 to 80 mph pace. I remember looking over at cars. I could see people in suits and ties staring blankly down the road while they drove, visibly stunned.

While heading south I could see vast areas of city and suburban lights off in the distance, but large sections were completely black, without power. Traffic was good and we were making good progress – until we weren’t. As we approached the Los Altos area traffic came to a complete stop. We were moving about a 100 feet every five minutes. This was going to take forever.

Things reached the point where cars were taking to both the inside and outside shoulders of the freeway, turning them into stationary traffic lanes. At one point I think things had grown to six lanes wide. Even so, we were barely moving.

About this time, about 10 or 11 PM, I realized that I needed to pee at some point. But with the freeway being a parking lot, you’d be doing it in front of people. As time passed the urge became greater and greater. I distinctly remember looking at the oleander center divider and debating whether or not to pee there. But, people were using the center shoulder as a lane so I’d be peeing right beside someone’s car door. I’d have to wait.

As we approached the Magdalena Road overpass I could see our six lanes of traffic funneling down into a single lane and exiting the freeway. At least I had a reference point for our forward progress. I could hang on for awhile longer. But progress was so slow. By now I was squirming in my seat. Finally, FINALLY, I made my way down the off ramp. I could see the Magdalena Road overpass had raised up about 6 or 8 inches above the roadway. No wonder the freeway was closed. I remember wondering how many people destroyed their cars hitting that!

Once off the freeway we were directed underneath the damaged overpass, which I remember thinking was a bit ironic. But, man, I had to go and I had to go bad! No sooner did I pass under the overpass than did I hang a right down a darkened residential street. I screeched to a stop, threw open my open, unzipped my pants and took a GIGANTIC pee in the middle of the street. I swear I pee’d full blast for a full minute. Relieved, I opened my eyes in the darkness and saw a half dozen other men in suits standing by their cars, peeing in the street.

I was glad not to be a woman!

HOME AT LAST
I navigated the rest of my way home to Los Gatos via surface streets. I drove down Saratoga-Los Gatos Road past downtown. There was no power. I could see emergency vehicles with flashing lights everywhere on North Santa Cruz Blvd. It looked like the town was seriously damaged.

From downtown I was home in minutes. No one was on the road. By now it was midnight and because this was the pre-cell phone era I still hadn’t spoken with Susie. When I got to our neighborhood our side of the street was dark, the other side illuminated like nothing happened. At least the houses were still standing! I pulled up in our driveway. I remember looking at the house in the darkness and trying to see if it had been damaged. Then I saw Sue walking up the street from the Kxxxxx’s house. She ran up to me and we embraced like something out of a romance movie. And then she said to me, “I thought you might be dead!”

Long story short, our house suffered substantial damage. It took us two years to get everything fixed. Thank God we had earthquake insurance.

-------------------------

Embarcadero #4 is the tallest building in the picture. My office was on the 30th floor.
Embarcadero 4.jpg


The San Jose Mercury News
SJM-L-PIZARRO-COL-1018.jpg


The collapsed section of the Bay Bridge
Bay Bridge.jpg


Portions of downtown Los Gatos were destroyed
Los Gatos downtown.jpeg
 
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The building started swaying wildly from side-to-side. I’ll never forget the sounds. The building protested and made deep, structural groaning sounds like those of a sinking ship in a movie. I vividly remember thinking the building was going to fall sideways and crash down to earth like a tree being blown over in the wind. I remember wondering whether Michelle and I would float weightless until we finally crashed to earth.
From those photos, that looks like a modern building so I would assume it was designed and built to survive earthquakes.
 
From those photos, that looks like a modern building so I would assume it was designed and built to survive earthquakes.
Yes, it was a modern building and yes it survived. Modern building or not it was quite a fright being up there. Had you been up there, atikovi, I seriously doubt you would have been relaxed and confident.

Scott
 
My brother was working at his shop near downtown Santa Cruz, under a jacked up 911. He always bragged if he had to go during the quake, that would have been a great way to go.

The thing I remember most was how the SF Bay Area banded together at that time. Everyone helped each other. I had 2 friends stay with me until they got housing; many more borrowed my shower.
 
I remember that day, I was stationed at NAS. Moffett Field in Mountain View.
I imagine you felt a good rock and rolling too.

As an aside, I'd lived in the Los Gatos area since 1959. When I started riding nice road bikes, age 14 or 15, I used to ride from Los Gatos to Moffett and watch the airplanes through a cyclone fence. Back then the various communities like Los Gatos, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, and Mountain View were isolated from each other and separated by large apricot and walnut orchards. I'd be gone for all day on my bicycle, riding meandering two lane country roads that are now major thoroughfares. My Mom used to get so angry at me for disappearing all day!

Scott
 
My brother was working at his shop near downtown Santa Cruz, under a jacked up 911. He always bragged if he had to go during the quake, that would have been a great way to go.

The thing I remember most was how the SF Bay Area banded together at that time. Everyone helped each other. I had 2 friends stay with me until they got housing; many more borrowed my shower.
That would have been horrible. You'd suffocate! I'd much rather be bludgeoned to death by debris from a falling high rise!

Scott
 
That would have been horrible. You'd suffocate! I'd much rather be bludgeoned to death by debris from a falling high rise!

Scott
I think Greg's death would not have been from suffocation. His body is a lot bigger than a 911's ground clearance, especially with 1 or more wheels off...
 
A friend in NYC was on the phone with her friend in Oakland when that quake hit.
"We're having an earthquake". said the Californian.
"Oh, when?", responded my friend.
Then the line went dead.

Turns out Oakland's husband and daughter were at the canceled game.
My friend was embarrassed because she reacted like a cook-out was being scheduled.
 
I remember that day as well. On the day of the quake I just got back to CONUS from a 1 yr tour in Oki, Flew out of LAX heading back to my family at LeJeune. When I got off the plane at Charlotte I had a layover and when I went to the bar everyone was gathered around the TV. Sad day.
 
I was with Dad in San Francisco on that day. While we had lived in LA years earlier we were living in the UK in '88 and '89 and we were visiting my grandparents in the Bay Area. I was 13 years old and it had been a few years since I had felt a quake and the Loma Prieta was the strongest I had ever felt. We were outside just South of Market when it happened. There was no looting and we didn't witness any crimes of opportunity. We quickly made it to Union Square which was a large open area with little risk of falling debris. There was smoke rising all over the city. We soon heard the Marina was on fire. Dad's portable Motorola was down and after a long wait, we could eventually call our relatives from a payphone around midnight. The next morning we were able to get on a ferry to Larkspur where Grandpa picked us up. These days, mayhem would break out and you'd have to beware your fellow man more than any other danger.
 
My brother was working at his shop near downtown Santa Cruz, under a jacked up 911. He always bragged if he had to go during the quake, that would have been a great way to go.

The thing I remember most was how the SF Bay Area banded together at that time. Everyone helped each other. I had 2 friends stay with me until they got housing; many more borrowed my shower.
There could of been dozens of great people helping people photos during Hurricane Harvey - but they did not fit the News narrative at all …
 
There could of been dozens of great people helping people photos during Hurricane Harvey - but they did not fit the News narrative at all …
The local news around here was all about guiding people as to what to do. Food and lodging. The Police and Fire Departments were working overtime around the clock. Motels offered free rooms; restaurants free food. So much more. We banded together.
 
Have they changed the building codes much since then to make tall buildings safer for the next big one? I don't recall seeing any of them collapsing, so is there much to improve? Any video on the buildings actually swaying?
 
There could of been dozens of great people helping people photos during Hurricane Harvey - but they did not fit the News narrative at all …
This is true. When we had the floods up here 2021-22, people really helped each other. Despite the newly created junk from C19, people bailed, pumped, dug, saved, etc after we helped dry out, fans dehumidifiers..............

____________________________________________________________________________________________

The Loma Prieta we lived in Grants Pass OR. Close in some ways, but we didn't feel a thing of course. I was watching the game when the feed cut. I knew what happened.
 
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Y’all:

Some chapters from a book I wrote about my life. My oldest son and his family give me a "Storyworth" subscription so I could put things in writing. The main reason for the gift was that my grandkids live in my childhood home and go to the same schools I did. The original focus was to write stories about the old neighborhood, knowing my grandkids are playing on the same streets and walking the same sidewalks I did.

Of course there were other exciting things that happened in my life, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake being one of them. Warning, I copied and pasted these chapters from my master copy. I did a quick scan but there may still be some profanity here and there.

Keep in mind, I was 30 stories up in Embarcadero #4 when the earthquake hit.

Enjoy,

Scott
====

WILL DEATH HURT?
In 1989 the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s met in the World Series. It was called the Bay Bridge World series. Game 3 of the series started Tuesday evening, October 17 1989. Nearly the entire Bay Area region of 10 million people were watching the game. I wasn’t a baseball fan so I, along with about a dozen other colleagues, used the opportunity stay in the office and catch up on business.

With so few people in the office it was pretty chill. About 5 PM I started packing up. I walked to the elevator lobby and saw fellow colleague Michelle S. standing there. Happy to see her on my way out I remember swinging my briefcase forward and back in wide arcs, acting like a dorky cartoon character.

While waiting for the elevator we exchanged some friendly chit chat. And then........BOOM! The entire lobby jolted with a powerful, rumbling blow. Michelle and I knew instantly it was an earthquake. We retreated to a corner in the lobby and crouched down over the floor side-by-side with each other. I remember putting my right arm over the top of her body to help steady us. All h*** was breaking loose!

After that initial jolt the building swayed like a stunned boxer on the verge of going down. Then, about 4 or 5 seconds later - BOOM! An even larger jolt hit us. But now it was a constant series of jolts and the building was getting hit blow after blow in quick succession. I remember Michelle and I pressed our heads together to further brace ourselves. I vividly remember hearing Michelle grunt repeatedly in absolute terror, but she never screamed! I'll always love her for that!

The building started swaying wildly from side-to-side. I’ll never forget the sounds. The building protested and made deep, structural groaning sounds like those of a sinking ship in a movie. I vividly remember thinking the building was going to fall sideways and crash down to earth like a tree being blown over in the wind. I remember wondering whether Michelle and I would float weightless until we finally crashed to earth.

At this point the thought crossed my mind that we might actually die. Remember, we’re 30 floors up. They say when a person is near sudden death their entire life flashes before them in an instant. That was not my experience. Instead, I vividly remember wondering exactly what was going to kill me and whether or not I was going to suffer any pain. My mind raced at light speed. I actually remember thinking that, regardless of how I might die, there would only be a few moments of terror and pain before it was over.

But just an instant later, falling sideways to our deaths became a lesser concern. Delivering yet another blow – and the worst one so far - and one seemingly in a different direction than the others.....BOOM!!!! The entire floor of the building began shaking up and down like a trampoline. This one caused a large section of the ceiling in front of the elevator doors to come crashing down, light fixtures with exploding bulbs hanging by their metal electrical conduits. Ominously, the brass elevator doors jerked and open and closed randomly in front of us, exposing bare elevator shafts, as if they were beckoning us forward so they could swallow us alive!

As this point I was fully convinced we were going to die. The floors were going to pancake down one by one on top of each other until our 45-story tall high rise was reduced to a 6-story tall pile of rubble. Let me assure you, when you truly believe you are just moments from death - wait for it, wait for it - it’s a serious head rush and is something you’ll never forget. This was that moment for me.

But then, thankfully, after about 15 seconds, it was over.

SEARCH AND RESCUE
Michelle and I fled the lobby and went back to the office areas to check on others. I remember being amazed at the chaos and destruction. The dozen people still there were chattering with high energy communication, asking if others were okay. Debris was scattered everywhere. Cubicle partitions were knocked over and half the ceiling was on the floor. Most surprising was the damage caused by falling furniture. Given the nature of our work, we technical folks had dozens and dozens of 3-ring binders of reference and instruction manuals. Our fine wood bookcases were loaded from floor to ceiling with them. The earthquake caused the book cases to fall over and literally bury the other furniture inside.

We quickly realized that someone might be buried at their desk. We searched each office, looking for victims. I remember how heavy things were. It took strength to dig through these debris piles to make sure no one was buried underneath it. Fortunately, no one was.

After 10 or 15 minutes of search and rescue, all of us met in the elevator lobby before heading to the emergency stairwell. The doors to the stairway were locked so that people could not enter the floors from the stairwell. I vividly remember walking into the stairwell, only to see a line of people crowding the stairs, slowly descending one step at a time. It took 15 or 20 minutes to reach ground level, and other than some quiet muttering I do not recall there being any obvious fear or panic. People were surprisingly calm.

THE BAY BRIDGE COLLAPSED
Finally reaching ground level and walking outside was a huge relief. At first glance things looked pretty much undamaged. But closer inspection showed ornate concrete facades on the older buildings had collapsed onto the sidewalk in basketball sized chunks. I remember looking around to see if people were crowding around some hapless victim who got hit with this falling debris and lay there dead on the sidewalk.

Seeing nothing I turned to head towards nearby Justin Herman Plaza. This would take me to a more open area, somewhere safe from falling debris. On my way I came across someone who was holding a small battery powered television. This person was holding it above his head so others could see. He was shouting the news updates to the surrounding crowd. Then I heard him say, “The Bay Bridge has collapsed!”. Holy s***, this was even worse than I thought!

Embarcadero Four was adjacent to the Bay Bridge. I walked down the block and over to the wharf area to take a look. The bridge was still standing! Thank God!

By now the sidewalks and streets were absolutely packed with people. On a normal day most people remain in their buildings. But today, everyone was outside at the same time. I was dumbstruck by the large number of people. We were d*** near shoulder to shoulder.

THE EPICENTER WAS WHERE?!
I finally made my way over to Justin Herman Plaza. With nothing more than dumb luck I came across a half dozen of my colleagues. We collected ourselves and surveyed the situation.

The Embarcadero freeway, a double decker freeway like the Cypress structure (which had collapsed), was already packed with motionless cars that weren’t going anywhere fast. Broken water mains flooded large areas of the street. But we didn’t see any collapsed buildings and nothing near us was on fire so we were feeling pretty good about things. The main topic of discussion was where the epicenter was and how long it was going to take us to get home.

My good colleague and next door office neighbor, Steve V., wandered off and returned with a grocery bag full of snacks and soda. Doing something thoughtful like this was typical of Steve. Adjacent to us was a guy with a transistor radio. He was reciting news updates to those around him. The magnitude was first this, then that. The epicenter was first here, then there. The facts were constantly changing.

And then he said, “They now say the epicenter was in Los Gatos and all communication to that area has been lost!”. My colleagues turned to me, knowing I lived in Los Gatos. I told them I had to go. I’d figure out a way to get out of there somehow.

AUTOMOTIVE GRILLS
It was a short walk to where my car was parked. One of the perks I got was my own personal parking place. That was golden in The City. My spot was under Embarcadero #3 - four levels underground. I walked over to the entrance to the garage area, debating for a few minutes whether I wanted to go down there. Given the magnitude of the earthquake we were having several noticeable aftershocks per minute. Nothing as big as the original earthquake, but strong enough to hear a rumble and feel the ground move under your feet. It felt like you were standing on a dockside boat that was being rocked by gentle wakes.

By now it was dusk, probably about 6:30 or so. It was too far to walk home so into the garage I went. The different garage levels were accessed via a central circular driveway. When I got to the second level I realized the emergency lights weren’t working. It was getting dark in there! I continued down the circular driveway to the third level. By now it was almost totally dark, but I could still make out faint silhouettes on the brightwork of some of the cars that were parked there.

But when I got to the fourth level it was total darkness. Adding an electrified sense of fear to the darkness were the aftershocks. While underground I heard and felt several in quick succession. The rumble coming from the earth was absolutely surreal. I vividly remember thinking if the building collapsed they would never find my body, not even a tooth. I had to make this quick.

I knew exactly where my car was but I was four levels underground in TOTAL darkness. Would I actually be able to find my car under these frightful circumstances? I made it to the row of cars I thought mine and began feeling grills until I found our Volvo grill. Success! But there was one little detail that concerned me. Right under my driver’s side door was a drainage grill. I remember thinking to myself, “Scott, DO NOT drop your keys down the drain in your rush to get out!”

I’ll never forget the sense of relief that I got when I unlocked the door and opened it. The interior lights were a welcome sight! With that, I started the car, turned on my headlights and got the h*** out of there. I raced up the circular driveway, my inside rear tire spinning and squealing. Thankfully no one was walking down there like I had earlier. I honestly think I might have run them over in my haste to get out.

MY ESCAPE FROM SAN FRANCISCO
I quickly found my way to the lower level Embarcadero freeway. Progress, but traffic was at a dead stop. No sooner did I get to what was essentially a parking lot, then did I realize the Embarcadero Freeway was seriously damaged. I could see the supporting legs for the upper deck were cracked so badly that rebar was exposed and large chunks of broken concrete littered the ground underneath. Could a mild 2.5 aftershock cause the upper deck to collapse on us?

Eventually I navigated my way out of the city. Power was out everywhere and I don’t recall there being a single working traffic light. People were outside their homes and workplaces, flooding the street with humanity. My travels saw me pass though Hunter’s Point, which was the ghetto of San Francisco. It took me 2 or 3 hours to get out of there and onto Hwy 280. It was total chaos.

I’VE GOT TO PEE!!!
It was a huge relief to finally get on Hwy 280 and make real progress home. Even though the situation allowed otherwise, traffic was moving at a 50 to 55 mph pace rather than the normal 75 to 80 mph pace. I remember looking over at cars. I could see people in suits and ties staring blankly down the road while they drove, visibly stunned.

While heading south I could see vast areas of city and suburban lights off in the distance, but large sections were completely black, without power. Traffic was good and we were making good progress – until we weren’t. As we approached the Los Altos area traffic came to a complete stop. We were moving about a 100 feet every five minutes. This was going to take forever.

Things reached the point where cars were taking to both the inside and outside shoulders of the freeway, turning them into stationary traffic lanes. At one point I think things had grown to six lanes wide. Even so, we were barely moving.

About this time, about 10 or 11 PM, I realized that I needed to pee at some point. But with the freeway being a parking lot, you’d be doing it in front of people. As time passed the urge became greater and greater. I distinctly remember looking at the oleander center divider and debating whether or not to pee there. But, people were using the center shoulder as a lane so I’d be peeing right beside someone’s car door. I’d have to wait.

As we approached the Magdalena Road overpass I could see our six lanes of traffic funneling down into a single lane and exiting the freeway. At least I had a reference point for our forward progress. I could hang on for awhile longer. But progress was so slow. By now I was squirming in my seat. Finally, FINALLY, I made my way down the off ramp. I could see the Magdalena Road overpass had raised up about 6 or 8 inches above the roadway. No wonder the freeway was closed. I remember wondering how many people destroyed their cars hitting that!

Once off the freeway we were directed underneath the damaged overpass, which I remember thinking was a bit ironic. But, man, I had to go and I had to go bad! No sooner did I pass under the overpass than did I hang a right down a darkened residential street. I screeched to a stop, threw open my open, unzipped my pants and took a GIGANTIC pee in the middle of the street. I swear I pee’d full blast for a full minute. Relieved, I opened my eyes in the darkness and saw a half dozen other men in suits standing by their cars, peeing in the street.

I was glad not to be a woman!

HOME AT LAST
I navigated the rest of my way home to Los Gatos via surface streets. I drove down Saratoga-Los Gatos Road past downtown. There was no power. I could see emergency vehicles with flashing lights everywhere on North Santa Cruz Blvd. It looked like the town was seriously damaged.

From downtown I was home in minutes. No one was on the road. By now it was midnight and because this was the pre-cell phone era I still hadn’t spoken with Susie. When I got to our neighborhood our side of the street was dark, the other side illuminated like nothing happened. At least the houses were still standing! I pulled up in our driveway. I remember looking at the house in the darkness and trying to see if it had been damaged. Then I saw Sue walking up the street from the Kxxxxx’s house. She ran up to me and we embraced like something out of a romance movie. And then she said to me, “I thought you might be dead!”

Long story short, our house suffered substantial damage. It took us two years to get everything fixed. Thank God we had earthquake insurance.

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Embarcadero #4 is the tallest building in the picture. My office was on the 30th floor.
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The San Jose Mercury News
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The collapsed section of the Bay Bridge
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Portions of downtown Los Gatos were destroyed
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Bery cool. I had a Journalism professor who was covering the world series that day. He was sitting on a bus waiting to go to the game. Apparently the bus started shaking and he thought someone was messing with the bus, until someone daide nope just an earthquake.
 
I was sitting in the left field bleachers in Candlestick Park when the earthquake hit. I had been at the park since 9:30 that morning.

A ball that Matt Williams hit into the bleachers during batting practice landed 4-5 rows behind me. I made zero effort to get to it. It bounced forward and landed in my lap.

I have my tickets and stubs someplace. The ball is in a plastic display box.
 
I was sitting in the left field bleachers in Candlestick Park when the earthquake hit. I had been at the park since 9:30 that morning.

A ball that Matt Williams hit into the bleachers during batting practice landed 4-5 rows behind me. I made zero effort to get to it. It bounced forward and landed in my lap.

I have my tickets and stubs someplace. The ball is in a plastic display box.
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I think it was Ticketron that was selling tickets outside season ticket holders. Price? Face value. The event hasn't faded from memory but the minute details of that day are beginning to get cloudy.
 
I was sitting in the left field bleachers in Candlestick Park when the earthquake hit. I had been at the park since 9:30 that morning.

A ball that Matt Williams hit into the bleachers during batting practice landed 4-5 rows behind me. I made zero effort to get to it. It bounced forward and landed in my lap.

I have my tickets and stubs someplace. The ball is in a plastic display box.
I was at game 4. I had a friend who was a huge Giants fan. He and a few of his other rich friends had Giants season tickets. One guy was so disappointed that the A's were kicking the Giants behinds that he refused to go to game 4. So I was invited to go for free. Rickey Henderson led off the game with a HR. Giants came back in the middle innings, but the A's had too much power.
 
Ah - Embarcadero Center. To me it was shopping and the Hyatt Regency. It was after the earthquake, but during my summer/part time job I spent a lot of quality time there. I think Chevy's was at #2 and they had really good and cheap takeout.

I remember that day. I was a student coming back from UC Berkeley and I was listening to the radio. I hoping to get home and watch the World Series. I actually didn't feel it at all - at least not the initial temblor. I attribute that to to making a turn and the soft ride of the Oldmobile I was driving. But the radio had the DJ (Rob Francis of Live 105) announcing that he was feeling an earthquake as the signal started getting staticky before it finally just went dead. I went home but my parents hadn't gotten back from work. The game wasn't on. So I went to a relative who lived a few blocks away to figure out what happened. We watched the news. They had some binoculars and I used them to look at the Bay Bridge where I could see the upper section that had collapsed to the lower section.

I actually went to school the next day and most people were there, but it was strange because I don't remember doing anything useful. I might have had 3 classes that day, and we all just talked about the earthquake. It was just one of those weird days.
 
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