Friday, October 17, 2014


A special TGIF, for it is the 25th anniversary of the Loma Prieta Earthquake that interrupted the World Series, and focused the attention of the nation upon the San Francisco Bay Area.  Some 90 odd miles south, in the southern Santa Cruz mountains, was the epicenter.  Just a few miles from my house.

This photo in the Sentinel newspaper, Santa Cruz, says it all: a shocked and stunned woman cops a squat on the main street in Santa Cruz, trying to wrap her head around what has just occurred.  See the dust in the air?  So many brick buildings fell, their mortar sending up a grey cloud over the town.

While my friends were riding out the quake in their little beach cottage, I was stepping off the curb at the shopping mall when the sound of a speeding train perked my interest.  I looked out over the vast parking lot and watched as a wave of asphalt rolled toward me.  Being Californian, I adopted the surfer stance and rode the wave.  My mind was spinning as the earth was rolling: how is it that solid ground can become an ocean wave?

I was at the mall because, two days before, I had moved out of the house I lived in with my husband.  We were on our way to breaking apart our 11 year marriage and I was buying new bed sheets -- a symbolic new start.  I wondered, momentarily, if this quake was a sign that I had made a grave mistake.  Magical thinking in times of stress.

I drove into Santa Cruz to retrieve my daughter, who, at 21 months of age, had been with her father that day.  It soon became apparent that this was a bigger, wider disaster than first imagined.  I ended up staying at my old house for the night, as the car was very low on gas and no gas station was open, due to the widespread power outage.  Luckily, the husband and I were still on good terms.  We lay fully clothed, in the living room (closer to the escape route), grabbing the baby as each after shock jolted us up and out the door.  Those aftershocks were frequent and significant.  We didn't sleep a wink that night.

The weeks and months ahead were astonishing.  Nothing like normal life existed.  We were all shell-shocked, in constant emergency mode.  I had my backpack packed with essentials, along with my hiking boots, sitting next to the front door.  Helicopters bringing aid were a frequent distraction overhead.  And then there were the after shocks.  They continued for weeks.

I was grateful we were alive, had a roof over our heads, and had friends to weather the storm with.  Life was broken down to its elemental parts.  Nothing like a natural disaster to focus the mind.

And now, that little baby is a grown woman, married with a child of her own.  25 years of living under my belt, and I no longer have PTSD.  I no longer break out in a sweat when I hear a large truck or a helicopter.  I can hardly believe I experienced it.  I remember the stories of many of my friends, where they were, how they experienced it. 

What a time. 

Thank goodness it's Friday.  And we are whole.  Again.

Have a great weekend!


  1. You were so close to the epicenter. I was in San Jose, staying with a relative while I looked for a job and a house. My baby was 11 months; my son just over 2. They were so little, but they knew something was really wrong (especially once things started tipping over, and a bunch of glassware flew across the kitchen). We were trying to keep it calm for them -- "oh," we said calmly, "it's an earthquake. A big one." So we did not hear for a few hours about the bay bridge, the freeway collapse, etc. My son kept singing the happy birthday song, because of the candles.

  2. Such memories! I am glad my friends and family who experienced that awful event are whole.

  3. Great reading about your experience, Tara.I've been in two big earthquakes. First one was the Sylmar Quake in February 1971, when my family had just moved to California from New Jersey. We had no idea what was happening. It was a 6.0 and it shook for one full minute. It was unbelievable. The second one was the Loma Prieta. That 6.9 was amazingly strong and crazy, and it only shook for 15 seconds. It may not seem that 15 seconds is long time, but it is when your whole world is shaking uncontrollably with a fierceness that seems like it will never end. There will be more quakes, and we have just started thinking about getting our preparedness kits ready. Oy.

    1. wow, Robin, you were in the two BIG ones! And just this morning I hear you've had one up on the north coast. are you sure you're not causing these things?

  4. Your memories brought that day and its aftermath back to me along with unexpected tears welling up. We are whole again.