Loma Prieta

Found this while looking (and throwing away) too much old stuff, too many ties to a past that’s just dragging me back into old feelings and habits.

After some failed experimenting, used Text Fairy app for decent scanning results and pasted into a Google Doc, required some light editing. Beats typing. Remind myself that this used to be dream technology.


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 Prieta Earthquake everything appears to be back to normal一too normal: People go to work, stores are open, and the obvious damage has been taken 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 lucky 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 rolled up and down. First I held on to the car. but the car was rocking wildly. I stumbled to the center of the courtyard and dropped down, while people were pouring out of their apartments. All thinking halted. The trees moved, the houses swayed back and forth, and the Earth resembled

an ocean during storm.

Suddenly it was quiet. No-one moved. This was like nothing we had ever experienced. All of a sudden. everybody started to babble. Nonsensical pieces of conversation 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. on 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 Clara. I went shopping and succeeded in appropriating one of the precious newspapers. In the afternoon I called my friends and family.

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