Loma Prieta Earthquake Stories

Santa Cruz Shaker

On October seventeenth, nineteen eighty nine,
in Santa Cruz County, near the coastline,
life changed for everyone in that seven point one:
in a matter of seconds, the damage was done.
The time that it hit was four minutes past five…
it took a while to hit me how blessed we were to be alive.
Stores closed down everywhere, their businesses ransacked,
eight thousand went homeless, and that’s a fact.
I was really blessed, because my children were with me,
and we were in our pickup truck, bouncing joyfully.
We paused in the parking lot as the doctor came out and screamed.
He’d been inside that office, all by himself, it seemed.
When he’d calmed down, I made sure that he was okay,
but then I had to tell him that we had to be on our way.
Chimneys and street lights were strewn about my little city:
the damage was far and wide—it really wasn’t pretty.
Every morning we wake up, not knowing when our life will end,
but I didn’t expect that on this day, I would lose a friend.
Dale was on the freeway, coming home from work,
when two horses crossed in front of him, totally berserk.
There was an old rest home that had been called Casa Del Rey,
that, because of this earthquake, is a parking lot today.
The Cooper House was one of many destroyed on the Pacific Garden Mall,
where the rest were so badly damaged too, that they met with The Ball.
Our own apartment, we found, was initially red tagged by emergency crews.
My husband, in the Army, heard all about it in the news.
We were left to our own devices for several days and nights,
standing in long lines outside stores for batteries for our flashlights.
They slowly let us buy more limited supplies like food and drink,
but I began to really miss my little kitchen sink.
After the first few nights, we camped out in Tent City nearby.
I wanted to make sure that we didn’t lack a single supply.
For when you’re caught in a disaster, you’re subject to the cold,
we stood in line for free blankets, since they could not be sold.
Although we lost many businesses, and there were people killed,
folks began to come together and then started, slowly, to rebuild.
Time has passed, and it’s been so long since this all occurred,
that people may think the memory of this event is somehow blurred.
The Loma Prieta earthquake interrupted a World Series game,
that’s why they like to call it San Francisco’s second claim to fame.
But we local folks know it was centered in Aptos, in Nisene Marks Park…
The small town I went to high school in has left quite a mark!

Copyright 02-23-1990, Revised 05-02-2014 by Jaime Arispe

Jaime Arispe October 13, 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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