Loma Prieta 25 years later

If you are in Northern California you no doubt have seen plenty of coverage of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake. If you are somewhere else likely less so.

I was there.

My first wife had died in April, and I was living in a small, two-room cottage in Los Gatos behind a single-family home occupied by an Anglo right-wing Republican, his Latino wife, their young child, and the wife’s brother and his wife. It was quiet, isolated, and an ideal place for healing and drinking Scotch.

I was employed at a very small software company (there were six of us, give or take) located in a surplus elementary school in Mountain View that housed other offices, a preschool, and a continuation high school for delinquent types. I had a small office with a desk, a computer table, and a bookcase.

At 5:04 p.m. on 17 October 1989 I was sitting in the outer office working on a different computer. We had no networking. If you wanted to access the customer database you had to walk over to the computer that housed it. When the earthquake hit I moved into the center of the room, in between the hanging schoolroom lights.

When it was over I went outside and spoke with some of the neighbors. I went back inside and saw the bookcase in my office had toppled over and books were spilled on the floor and across my desk. Good thing I wasn’t in there.

For some reason I made the decision to take surface streets home rather than the freeway. I don’t remember why. It took me two and a half hours to get home. Signals were out and ordinary citizens were directing traffic at backed-out intersections.

When I got home I found wine bottles were ejected from the wine rack like torpedoes and books were covering the bed and floor of my combination library and bedroom. My cat, Clea, was missing.

I got a phone call from Terry, an old high school friend, a day or two later when phone service was restored and a year and a half before we got back together, became a serious couple, and eventually married.

My inconveniences were minor compared to the losses many suffered. Still, it was not an experience I would care to repeat. But I live in California. You never know.

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