I saw the disaster film “Earthquake” in 1975 in Virginia. It featured Sensurround – theater subwoofers that simulated an actual temblor. I thought it was realistic . . . until we moved to California.
The Oct. 17, 1989, Loma Prieta earthquake registered 6.9 on the Richter scale and caused widespread damage. Before reading the “I-remember-where-I-was” stories by locals, I ask that you please pause for a moment of silence for the loved ones of the 63 people who lost their lives that day. Thank you.
Al Dolby: I was going west on I-80 and as I was driving past the brewery, my car began a gradual up and down motion, like I was driving over waves. I was startled when I looked down the freeway and saw it actually rolling toward me in waves, one of the freakiest things I’ve ever seen!
Vince Guisande: Linda and I had just arrived at Candlestick for the World Series. We were walking under the mezzanine when it hit. I grew up in San Francisco; I knew exactly what it was. I was scared that the mezzanine may come down on top of us. We left and got to the parking lot.
I used my “Night at the Roxbury”-type cellphone I had then to call our friends in Fairfield who were watching our kids, and found out they were OK. Within minutes, I had a line of about a dozen people waiting to use my phone to check on their loved ones. Eventually it just quit working altogether.
Tanja Duncan: I was living on Missouri Street and breast-feeding my then 3-month-old son when I suddenly felt my bed moving, like I was riding a wave. I remember being very scared because the phone lines weren’t working and my husband worked in Oakland. I thought I was going to be a widow after only being married 10 days prior. I was so happy and relieved to see him walk through the door hours later.
Jan Chaffins: I was sleeping in my apartment in Fairfield. Never felt anything.
Wendy Ferrell: My mom (a third-generation San Franciscan) and I were watching a movie. The house started shaking and my dad (a Pennsylvanian) yelled, “Get out! Earthquake!” My mom and I just rode it out. When it was over, we looked out the window at my dad standing in the street. My mom said, “That wasn’t so bad.”
Karl Offermann: My wife worked in Oakland at KTVU and usually left work at 5 p.m. I was catching some last-minute pre-game news on KCRA when the shaking started. I flipped the channel to Bay Area stations and they were all dead. All of a sudden KGO came up with a picture only, no sound, from the helicopter hovering over the collapsed Bay Bridge. It eventually panned over to the cypress structure and my heart sank. I knew by the timing that my wife should have been there. All of the phone lines were busy and we had no cellphones. It was after 11 p.m. when I received a call from one of her co-worker’s relatives that she was OK.
Karen Blumst: It was devastating, but could have been worse. Because of the baseball game, many people had left work early or were headed for the stadium instead of home via the Bay Bridge. The cypress structure collapsing was horrific, but many got out and the traffic wasn’t as heavy as it could have been.
Ric Eittreim: I am a ham radio operator registered with the OES (Office of Emergency Services) and they called me to man a base station in Oakland. I ended up working the ham station for most of the night setting up shelters, helping direct food, cots and water. For a couple of years after that night I could not walk past a running generator without tearing up as that memory stayed so fresh in my mind of so many people hurt and displaced.
Russell John Connor: I lived in Laurel Heights in San Francisco. The building I lived in was so badly damaged I had to move back to Fairfield temporarily. Sure felt good to be back in my hometown.
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org.