Loma Prieta Earthquake Stories

Another beautiful sunny day. I decided to go for a jog at a nearby school after work to prep for the World Series that night between Oakland and San Francisco. After a few laps, I decided to stop for a rest near the school. A half-dozen youth soccer teams were practicing in the lush green fields in this residential oasis. I heard what sounded like a gigantic roar coming down the valley from the south. I later realized this was all of the houses, buildings, concrete, and earth cracking as the earthquake approached.

Within seconds, waves that seemed to be 6 feet from crest to trough were engulfing the entire area. I tried walking to a nearby tree, but could barely move. Underground pipes began to burst spraying water into the air, as thousands of car alarms began to go off simultaneously. I looked over at the one story school building heaving back and forth on the brink of collapse. After an eternity, just as I thought this was the end of life as we knew, the shaking stopped. Utility poles swayed in the aftermath. To my amazement when I turned around, all of the children on the soccer teams were sitting in circles, looking like they had practiced for this every day of their lives. As a transplant from Illinois ten years earlier, I was quite shaken.

I drove the few miles to our two-year-old apartment building to find the contents of the large in-ground pool were now in the parking lot. My wife had ridden out the quake in the doorway of our third story apartment. One wall was beginning to buckle, so we gathered the petrified cats and headed for the in-laws. We only went back to the apartment to collect our belongings and we moved back to Chicago six weeks later.

Six months prior to the earthquake before moving back to SunnyVale, we lived in a two-story condominium on the edge of a cliff overlooking Loma Prieta and a beautiful view of Half Moon Bay. We went back several years later to find that the four-plex next door where several friends had lived was now nowhere to be found and seemed to most likely have gone off the cliff. The building where we had lived was somehow still standing.

Allen Burns February 1, 2010

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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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