Loma Prieta Earthquake 1989

I wrote this account of the event a couple of days after the October 17th event. You may notice that this was written using a typewriter, about 30 years ago.

October 19th, 1989


"Life will never be the same", we say, when a major event breaks our daily routine. But more often than not, life returns to be exactly the same, not because nothing has happened and nothing is changed, but rather because the upheaval was so tremendous, that only falling back into a familiar pattern gives us the opportunity to recover.

Exactly this is happening here. Two days after the Loma Prieata Earthquake, everything appears to be back to normal -- too normal: People go to work, stores are open, and the obvious damage has been take care of. Even the mail arrives on time! We don't talk much about the events dominating the last few days, but we eagerly read the paper, sit glued to the television, and hungrily absorb the news from the radio. Every few hours the ground shakes mostly small tremors, and once in a while a jolt. You get alert, ready to dash outside. Chances for a big aftershock are decreasing, but you never know. - It's not over yet.

The quake has not relieved much tension, and the geologists already predict more. They speak of chances per so many years. And, nota bene: This was not the Big One. This was only a teaser for what is to come.

We live with earthquakes, we joke about them, we laugh when they happen. Now, we have stopped laughing. We have been reminded of our vulnerability.

We are luck down here; there is only minor damage. Sections of the City are devastated, and downtown Santa Cruz lays in ruins. In Oakland, a freeway overpass collapsed, burying commuters.

On Tuesday, the seventeenth, I left work early to meet a person interested in buying my old car. i was outside, wiping the windshield, when the ground began to undulate. Surprise, and: "Aeh, earthquake! We haven't had one in a while." Before I could return to cleaning, the motion increased. The driveway rollded up an down. First, I held on to the car, the the car was rocking widly. I stumbed to the center of the courtyard and dripped down, while people were pouring out of their apartments. All thingking halted. The trees moved, the houses swayed back an forth, and the Earth resembled an ocean during storm.

Suddenly, it was quiet. No-one moved. This was like nothing we had ever expeerienceed. All of a sudden, everybody started to babble. Non-sensical pieces of converstaion floated through the air. We were alive.

I went back into the house - started to clean up. There was surprisingly little damage: a few fallen pictures, an overturned bookshelf, cracked vases, and water swapped out from the fishtank. - Night fell and there were no lights. Some radio stations resumed broadcasting.Only now it dawned on us, what really had happened.

On Wednesday, the radio advised everybody to stay home. All the schools were closed, many roads impassable. There were still no telephone connections to Santa Cruz. I went shipping and succeeded in appropriating one of the precious newspapers. In the afternoon, I called my friends an dfamily.

And now, finally relaxing, I am shaking all over.

There are a couple of other memories that for some reason did not make it into the account:

  • As the road was rolling and rocking, water swapped out of the swimming pool in a huge wave. I wonder whether this is a false memory, and that I only saw the water flood afterwards, and made up the idea of how it happened?
  • That evening we all huddled together in Hala's appartment. Eventually we had some electricity late, and the TV came one, until 2 a.m., when the News said we should be OK going to bed now.
  • My memory says I called my parents right after, but that can't be true, because the phone were down.