Today was he anniversary of one of the craziest days of my childhood. It was supposed to be just a normal Tuesday. School, homework, and then CCD classes (my Catholic peeps out there feel me). But it didn’t work out that way. Earthquake days never do…
This is a piece I wrote for JamsBio about that fateful October day back in 1989.
They say sometimes animals can sense when something is about to happen. A storm, tornado, flood, or an earthquake. Well Mama Kitty had been missing since Monday, and it was now Tuesday afternoon. We decided to make some flyers and hang them up around the neighborhood. We sat at the kitchen table making up our lost pet posters, when suddenly the earth began to shake. Movies and books began falling of the shelves, and as all good California boys & girls do we got underneath the doorway.
Once the shaking finally stopped we all ran outside. All the neighbors had stepped out into the October evening and began joking and making guesses as to what size the quake was. Us kids were laughing and standing in the street watching the parked cars still gently rocking back & forth. When the cable finally came back on we all went inside to see the verdict. You see, earthquakes here aren’t really a big deal. They happen all the time, and though this one was obviously a doozy, it was still just an earthquake. Or so we thought.
The first pictures I remember seeing of the devastating damage done by the Quake of ’89 was that our beloved bay bridge had collapsed. No one had ever imagined something like that could happen. I just remember staring at the TV, and thinking “there’s people down there”. The newscasters just kept saying, “Thank God for the World Series”. You see here in the bay area at the exact moment the quake hit, a good majority of bay area residents had gathered to watch our two bay area teams, The A’s & The Giant’s battle it out in the World Series. That game is the only reason the Bay Bridge was relatively empty on a Tuesday at 5:04PM when normally it would have been backed all the way to Oakland with commuter traffic.
The coolest thing about living in The Bay Area is that we do disaster, and we do it well. In less then 24 hours the local Red Cross and many concerned citizens were doing what they could to help find shelter for the 12,000 people left homeless by the quake. I heard it said on the news after the California Wildfires last year, that FEMA should base their emergency disaster relief plans on California’s state disaster plans. I don’t know if that’s true, but I remember being pretty inspired as a little girl by the way the various Bay Area communities stepped up during what at the time, was the worst natural disaster in US history.
We Built This City was designated by Bay Area radio stations to be “Our Song” during the days following the quake. This was only right considering the song was written about the city anyway. As those rescue and recovery efforts continued and the rebuilding (which took years, hell, the Cypress just finally reopened LAST YEAR) began, this song fit. And ever since that shaky Tuesday in October I have forever related this song to all the kind, brave, and generous souls who did their part to help rebuild the city.
“Marconi plays the Mamba, Listen to the radio, Don’t you remember? We built this city, We built this city on rock and roll!”
The next day was a Wednesday, and I woke up to find Mama Kitty sitting on the front porch as if she’d never been gone. That day after the quake, October 18, was a big day for me. It was my birthday, and I turned 11.