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The Great Loma Prieta Earthquake Of 1989

By Rich de Sousa

It was the beginning of baseball's World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics in October 1989 (I forget the exact date). The long awaited dream matchup called the "Bay Bridge" World Series was finally a reality.

It was approximately 5 pm and I was driving home to Berkeley from my job in Oakland. I was going north on Martin Luther King Jr Way approaching Alcatraz, traveling approximately 30 mph, when suddenly I thought I had a flat tire. I slowed down to a stop and realized that all the street lighting poles around me were swaying and whipping about furiously.

It was an earthquake!!

I could feel the car bouncing around under me and although I had experienced numerous other earthquakes, this one didn't seem to bother me as much since I felt safe inside my car. The whole episode lasted about 10 seconds, and the street light poles stopped swaying after about a minute. All around me other vehicles had also come to a stop and their occupants were all looking about, some quite frightened and others bemused by the experience.

We all soon parted company, on our way to our original destinations. As I approached my apartment house in Berkeley, I noticed a cloud of smoke coming from approximately the direction of my building. I really started to become concerned since one of the greatest by product of earthquakes are fires. My fears were unfounded as it became apparent as I got closer that it was the repair garage next to my apartment which had caught fire during the earthquake. The fire department was already on the scene and pouring water on the building. In retrospect, I realized that my good fortune could have been different. Had many other fires started in Berkeley, the fire department would have been overcome by the lack of manpower and equipment. Also, had the earthquake damaged the water lines, there would not have been any water to quench the fire, which then could have spread to my apartment building next door.

When I finally arrived at my apartment building, the police had already cordoned off the building because they were concerned that the fire department may not have been able to douse the fire. In the interest of safety the police and the fire department had evacuated all the residents in my building and all the occupants of the adjoining businesses until the fire was contained.

Finally, after waiting for an hour, we were allowed to enter our respective buildings to gather our belongings just incase the building was damaged by the earthquake. I entered my apartment to a ransacked scene. All my bookshelves which faced east and west had fallen over in my. I had books everywhere on the floor. One of my stereo speakers had fallen over because it was pushed over by one of the bookshelves. My two birds were in a state of panic and were glad to see me. I carried the cage out of the apartment, along with some clothes and placed these in my car, which was parked away from the apartment building.

After the fire was completely quenched, the fire department was able to do a survey of our building to verify that it was safe and structurally sound to be reoccupied. By the time we were allowed back into our apartments it was nearly 8 pm and it was getting dark.

It was quite a memorable evening and I was thankful that fate had placed me from harms way. Numerous people were killed throughout the area and hundreds of millions of dollars damage occured.

Incidentally, they had to cancel the game for fear of structural damage to the stadium. The series resumed the next day after the civil engineers determined that the stadium was undamaged. The Oakland Athletics beat the San Francisco Giants 4 games to 0 (I think).

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