Loma Prieta Earthquake Stories

My husband and I were visiting his brother John who lives in Oakland. After a day at Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf we were on the Bay Bridge heading to Oakland. Suddenly we ran over something, or so I thought. The radio deejay announced “Whoa, that was a big one.” I was still looking for what we had run over when John told us that we had just experienced our first earthquake. He pulled off at the next exit and we came to a stop.

I was an ER nurse so I got out hoping I could help in some way. I walked around a broad curve to the right and there was an awesome awful sight. The upper tier of the freeway was buckled and collapsed for as far as I could see. I was amazed that the fire department was already there, hard at work.

I climbed a fire ladder to the upper deck, with many people helping to steady the ladder. I am still grateful and humbled by those people who didn’t climb the ladder themselves just to look, but helped someone like me. This is the strongest memory I have of that day- the people who wanted to help as they could.

I was able to give a little help to a woman named Trish. The fire department had been there already and she didn’t need any immediate care. I stayed because she was alone and I am very good at moral support.

My only scary time was when a helicopter seemed about to land some distance away. At the same time the upper deck began vibrating and shaking again. I don’t know if this was downwash from the helicopter or an aftershock but the helicopter took off without landing. I was afraid right then! But I decided to stick with Trish and things settled down shortly.

After Trish was put in an ambulance I climbed back down the ladder and hitched a ride to the meeting place my family and I had decided on. I was very glad to see them. It took some time and a lucky phone booth but we did get in touch with our families in Alabama.

We were all grateful to be alive and uninjured. Our vacation was quite different from anything we’d ever done. Our joke, still, is that SOMEBODY in California owes us 4 days of vacation.

Mary Belle Scott August 24, 2014

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The Loma Prieta earthquake, which occurred on October 17, 1989, is the most recent large earthquake to strike the San Francisco Bay Area. Many individuals and families have stories and memories related to this damaging earthquake. To help us preserve these precious stories and learn more about the earthquake, please share your story and memories with us.

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