Not just in 1906…

By Germanm

Apr 18, 2006 6:17pm

Correspondent Laura Marquez blogs about living and reporting in San Francisco during another of the city’s major earthquakes.

It’s hard to believe it’s been one hundred years since the anniversary of "the big one" — San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake. I was born and raised in San Francisco and earthquakes were just a part of life. A little shaking, some things would fall of the shelves, but that was it — until 1989, when the Loma Prieta quake that struck just as the World Series was about to begin.

From the moment that shaking started, it felt different. I was working as a reporter for KGO, our ABC station in San Francisco. My crew and I were the first ones on the scene of the fire in San Francisco’s Marina district, which also happened to be my neighborhood. I had no idea if my building was still standing. There was no time to check.

It was chaos — the sidewalks were buckled, buildings had fallen into the street, freeways had collapsed. And just as in 1906, gas and water lines had ruptured starting fires and leaving hydrants dry. If it wasn’t for the citizens of the Marina who began pulling hoses from the fireboat docked four blocks away, much of my neighborhood would have gone up in flames.

It was hours before I was able to check on my building, severely damaged but still standing. It took months to repair. But I never moved back in. I now had a healthy respect for Mother Nature and chose to live on bedrock.

When I look back on that night and then compare it to the old black and white photographs of 1906 I am amazed at the resiliency of the city by the bay and of the people determined to rebuild. But I also worry about the next "big one." The Bay Area’s population is ten times the size it was in 1906 and in addition to the San Andreas Fault, we have the Hayward Fault, which runs right through the densely populated East Bay.

And while engineers have retrofitted buildings and bridges, there’s no such thing as an "earthquake proof" building. I think those emergency earthquake kits that people put together immediately after the 1989 quake have been long forgotten. We know it’s not a matter of if, but when the next earthquake will hit. But it’s a date no one can predict with any certainty, and I believe it’s a date few people are prepared for or even think about. Before 1989, I never thought it would happen to me or my neighborhood. I was wrong.

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