1989 Quake: Where Were You 23 Years Ago Today?

Is the Bay Area better off after the Loma Prieta earthquake? What would you have done differently in rebuilding the region? Are we better prepared for the next one?

At 5:04 p.m. on Oct. 17, 1989, the ground in Northern California shook.

A lot of the area's attention was focused on the World Series game that was about to start between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics, but suddenly sports was insignificant as a 6.9 quake centered at Loma Prieta near Santa Cruz rocked the Bay Area.

In the quaint cobblestone of downtown Santa Cruz – then known as the Pacific Garden Mall – unreinforced brick tumbled, killing two in the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company and a third in Ford's Department Store.

Much of the downtown was deemed unsafe afterward and knocked down. Businesses moved into tents for years of planning, fights and rebuilding.

In addition, the Marina district in San Francisco was set ablaze when natural gas pipelines broken during the quake.

The Cypress freeway in Oakland crumbled, the top layer landing on the bottom layer and flattening the cars that were moving in between.

What do you remember about the day and the time? How has your life changed?

Have we learned from the disaster and are we better prepared for the next one?

Let us know what you think in our comments section.

Californicated1 October 18, 2012 at 12:40 AM
On that Tuesday evening, I was taking a 3-hour seminar class on Archives and Records Managment over at CSU in Fort Collins. A little before 7:00 pm Mountain Time the class took a break and during that break, a classmate of mine came bolting out of the History Department office just across the hallway from us and told us that that there was an earthquake in San Francisco. The rest of the class, about 8 of us total (Grad Students) all went into the History Department office and listened further on the radio while checking our inboxes. I was a little concerned because I had family in Oakland. And when I got home, I tried calling my father. It took me 4 days to reach him because all the phone lines going into the Bay Area were tied up. My father did not think anything of it. Since he lived in Adams Point, his house was on bedrock and had minimal damage. I seemed more worried about this quake than my father did. A lot of it had to do with the Cypress Structure coming down, the Marina District being on fire, and what happened in downtown Santa Cruz, because that's what the local and national news were broadcasting in northern Colorado. The media at the time made Loma Prieta seem worse than it actually was. On that Tuesday evening, the news seemed to convey to us that all of the Bay was leveled. It wasn't until the next day that sanity was restored to the media and that specific areas got the most coverage.
Mike G October 18, 2012 at 12:42 AM
We were practicing CYO Basketball in the parking lot at ST Edwards. I will always remember that
area man October 18, 2012 at 12:53 AM
You seem to have an outstanding memory Californicated1. I just can't seem to remember what I done just moments ago. Do you have any tips in how you can improve ones memory? Please reply soon before I forget as to what question I was asking.
cliff logan October 18, 2012 at 01:37 AM
I was working at Paradise Alley, the exotic bird store on Bancroft just north of San Leandro high. I was cleaning up to head home and watch the game. Tony Lizotte the owner was outside with his dog when it hit. No sooner when it was over the phone rang and it was his mom, she said the Bay Bridge fell and hundreds dead. The line went dead and the rest is history.
Sidnee Marie October 18, 2012 at 02:48 AM
I was at home headed out to the living room to watch the World Series. Got the the door in the hallway when the shaking started. Stood there the entire time, watching things fall off the walls. Remember standing outside talking to neighbors. Once we got power restored, I remember seeing images of the Bay Bridge and the pancaked Cypress Structure. Wasn't sure what I was seeing when I first saw that. Then I remember seeing the Marina Fire. I also remember in later days the mall that collapsed in Santa Cruz. I don't think I will ever forget what I was doing at the time the earthquake hit.
David October 18, 2012 at 03:16 AM
Watching the World Series on TV on my birthday.
Nathan21 October 18, 2012 at 03:50 AM
My brother and I were so excited because we knew the A's were about to go up 3 games to none! We were in the front yard pretending to be the Bash Brothers!! I had just started my windup to pitch the baseball to my brother. I'll never forget it. The shaking started at the exact same time as I was raising my leg to pitch the ball. I remember thinking something was wrong with my balance for a split second before realizing what was going on. To this day I can say I've never seen or felt anything as bazaar as I did that. I also remember the aftershocks that took place over the next few days.
Mike October 18, 2012 at 03:53 AM
I was at the world series and had to wait for the San Mateo Bridge to reopen to get home.
kingsweeper October 18, 2012 at 04:07 AM
I remember it well I was In the hospital waiting for chemotherapy treatment. They where my second set. The building shook a bit . It scared my wife , she was sent home. Only staff & patients were allowed to stay.
Don October 18, 2012 at 06:29 AM
I had been home from work maybe 20 minutes (Union City). Wife did child daycare at our home and left me with three pre schoolers and our 12 year old daughter while she took a child to soccer practice. I was in the living room with the children when it hit. Not too bad. nothing broke but it was quite noticable. I acted calm to keep the kids calm and that worked until my daughter came running down the hall screaming "EARTHQUAKE!!" ;> We didn't lose power but TV and some radio stations were off the air. I heard a teenager on CB claiming the Bay Bridge had colapsed. I told him to knock off the bull bleep. It didn't seem that bad. It was though.
Nile Kinnick October 18, 2012 at 07:36 AM
In prison. Ministering to the inmates. Not as a prisoner. Glad I clarified that.
Adriana A. October 18, 2012 at 07:45 AM
We lived in San Leandro at the time. I was supposed to be doing homework but instead I had just turned on the TV to watch the game. My younger brothers were in their room doing homework/playing. Mom was taking classes at Chabot College. Dad was normally starting his commute home at that time, from Oakland. Shortly after the shaking, my mom called (from a payphone) to see if were ok, then went back to class. She said that class continued until they were told by school admins that classes were canceled and for everyone to go home. My grandfather eventually came and picked us up even though I thought we were fine at home. The family was congregating at my grandparents house so they wanted us there too. We had power and everyone was sitting around the TV just watching for more news. I remember first hearing that the bridge had collapsed and there was a hole in a freeway. My dad was one of the last family members that we heard from. He'd had a meeting and was out of the office. So that day he was on the San Rafael bridge at the time of the earthquake, instead of his normal route taking the Cypress. I remember him telling us that many drivers pulled over during the shaking and would get out and look under their car- not realizing it was a quake not something wrong with their car.
John Harrington October 18, 2012 at 12:59 PM
I was walking around my backyard in Pleasanton carrying my two year old. The shaking started and when it kept going and going, I thought to myself that this is a big deal and was thankful for being out of the house. As it happened, the only "damage" was that the VCR (it was a long time ago) on top of the TV had fallen backwards.
Nancy October 18, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Happy Birthday David! Lets hope this day goes smoothly with no surprises! Enjoy YOUR Day.
Richard October 18, 2012 at 02:42 PM
I will take a chance on a earthquake than a hurricane or tornado. I just got home from work, wife had left for work 30 minutes before i got home. Sat down to watch the World Series, the earthquake hit, the house was flexing and twisting as I got up to check my son upstairs as he was flying down stairs and shook-up. The wife calls from work also a nerves wreck and said the company sending everyone home and she was on her way back home and to go pickup our other son from (church) school. Got back home and recheck home for water or gas leaks. Everything check fine. Called to work as a requirement and let them know I was on my way back to work, (USAF) Calif Air National Guard Combat Air Rescue service,we also assist on natural disasters. Waited for wife to arrive back home and assured her everything was fine and people out there are not so lucky and need help according to the live news broadcast and I was needed at work. Seeing the house flex and twisting I will not forget.
area man October 18, 2012 at 02:42 PM
I certainly love birthday parties. They are so fun. I still have my birthday party hat from my friend George's party.
Darci Gutierrez October 18, 2012 at 02:57 PM
I was at Candlestick Park, ready to enjoy a Giants game.... MANY MANY hours later we made it home to Dublin....
D October 18, 2012 at 03:18 PM
On this day I was inside my boat that was parked on the driveway at my house in Newark. When the shaking started I started yelling at my neighbor across the street Pat. To knock it off and stop shaking the boat. When I heard no response from Pat, I came out of the galley to the outside deck and to my great surprise Pat was not there. I noticed the light poles swaying as if they were rubber poles swaying . I was very concerned about my children , they were being picked up at Alameda and where commuting thru the cypress structure at the time. All phones where down. I did contact them and they where all fine. How I got thru to them was by using the marine radio on my boat. Wow that was one rough ride I will not forget.
june demerdjian October 18, 2012 at 04:31 PM
I was working in Sacramento and was on a dilapidated bus coming back to the bay area when a couple of people with head phones on said there had been a big earthquake and that the bay bridge was down. We arrived back in Berkeley and I came back to San Leandro via the Warren Freeway. I found my dogs were okay but my two cockatiels were breathing hard and hanging on to the cage sides for dear life. I calmed them down and fed the dogs and then called my mother in Modesto. She said the front wall of her house with all of the windows had rippled and that the porch slab pulled away from the house and then when the second wave came it went back. We were all okay. It was tougher for some people who lived in San Francisco because they had to backtrack from Berkeley and go over the Richmond/San Rafael bridge and then enter the city from the Golden Gate Bridge. The next day at work we all had stories to tell.
Lauren October 18, 2012 at 04:44 PM
I was 5 at the time, I lived in Tracy. My mom, my sister and I were in the kitchen cooking dinner. Then I felt the shaking and I stood under the doorway looked out the window and saw our car in the driveway moving up and down. The cracks are still in the driveway to this day. I remember it so vividly for only being 5.
Christina October 18, 2012 at 04:51 PM
It was my senior year of high school. We had finally gotten back to classes after the teacher strikes in Fremont. At the time of the earthquake My mom, sister, and I were at Arby's (now Del Taco) in Newark eating a quick dinner before heading to the pumpkin patch at Ardenwood. The quake started and it was like "ow, an earthquake - no big deal" Then, it just kept coming and coming and building. We ducked under the table, employees were running outside, the coffee pots fell to the floor. We then ran outside too. A driver in a car slammed out of his car and starting yelling that his car was going to explode - we yelled that is was an earthquake - not his car. Other drivers also jumped out of their cars. Arby's closed so we headed home. My dad was scheduled to do work in Oakland that day and should have been on the Cypress structure on his way home when the quake hit. But on his way to that job he got an emergency call from another customer and went there instead. By the time he was done there it was too late to go to Oakland so he was at home. He was very thankful for the emergency call that kept him in Fremont instead of in Oakland. The next few days were crazy also. We kept having aftershocks. At American High School we kept getting evacuated - ceiling tiles kept falling down on students, gas leak in the chem lab. Everyone just wanted to stay close together. I'll never forget the 1989 earthquake.
Melissa Havea October 18, 2012 at 05:22 PM
We lived in Hayward @ the time. This was I think about 2 weeks after my infant son had surgery on his head, I had a Dr's appointment @ Childrens hospital Oakland to remove his stitches. I would of been on the Cypres if i would of went! I was giving him a bath & decided that I could do it myself (remove the stitches) after the bath we held each other, laid him down to rest. Took out the stitches & had about 20 minute me time and the earth shook! I believe that I saved our lives by making this desision. His father was stuck in SF selling shirts to the A's/ Giants game. He tried like hell trying to get home, he said there where gaping holes in the road and buildings falling apart. It took him almost two day to get home. The after shocks bent the hood frame on my 87Cougar. It was devistating seeing what happened on the Bay Bridge & how they let those people still cross not knowing what was to come.
Chuck Harding October 18, 2012 at 06:02 PM
My family and I were living in Simi Valley at the time and were watching the World Series. Being from Livermore originally we were rooting for the As. It was pretty wild when the view of Candlestick started shaking and the announcer said they were having an earthquake. Then the picture went out and a slide came on that said "Please Stand By". After a little while the picture came back on but it wasn't the game, it was the news and they were showing coverage of the Cypress structure. We all felt bad for the people that were trapped and not likely to survive. The funny thing is that we moved back to the Bay Area in '91 and a couple of years later the Northridge quake happened. So we've been lucky to have never been in a major quake, we've always been on the other end of the state or out of the state.
Just Another Dingbat For Romney October 18, 2012 at 06:11 PM
So don't move from Livermore in case the Greenville Fault wants to rupture or the Hayweird Fault wants to burp a big one.
Pepebird October 18, 2012 at 07:29 PM
I was on the Bay Bridge at 5.04 pm. The bus that I was on was running late. We're usually at the 580/880 interchange at that time, The bus was weaving and speeding around the cars to make her mark. We were really moving and shaking on the bus, thinking it was the bus moving since the bus driver was driving so fast. We heard a loud boom right after we past the part where the bridge fell (still not knowing it at that time though), but thought it was just a car backfiring. We saw smoke towards the Cypress Freeway. Still not knowing what had happened, we then fell about 3 inches from the freeway going toward the overpass / underpass in Emeryville. After we got out of the underpass, we saw smoke and broken glass everywhere, that's when we figured that either there was a major earthquake or something had blown. When we got to the first stop, people were running and saying that we just had a major earthquake, the Bay Bridge has fallen and the Cypress Freeway has collasped. We also were told that some of the concrete from the overpass at the MacArthur Bart Station had fell on the ground as well as some of the bricks from the Columbo Bakery had fell also. It took me close to 3 1/2 hours to get home, (usually 45 min to 1-hr). My daughter was telling me that she saw the playgroung rolling like waves.
terry October 18, 2012 at 10:47 PM
I'll never forget that day! I was In our Hayward Construction yard as the quake rolled through.........I was one of the lead public liaison's for the Alameda Counties office of Emergency Service's. It took several hours before my cell phone started ringing........I was first asked to mobilize equipment to the Cypress Structure in Oakland.........once there the site was beyond imagination. We were working along side the Pennhall Company as they were cutting holes in the deck to extract people, bodies and cars........we moved the cars with bodies to a temporary morgue set up on Wood Street a few blocks away......our company hauled away all of the Concrete Debris as the structures were later dropped to the ground once all the survivors & bodies were extracted. Later that week I was tasked by the Army Corp of Engineers to convert unimproved waterfront property next to the old Todd Ship yards in Alameda into a 1000 space parking lot and dock facility to be used in 48 hours by Ferry's that were being brought in for the Monday Morning Commute do to the fact the Bay Bridge was out of service.....................We moved in our equipment and light plants and started grading the property immediately. 40,000 tons of rock was being hauled as we graded by truck from the now closed Kaiser Pleasanton Quarry 24 hours a day. Monday Morning was wet and raining but they had there parking lot and Ferry dock facility. Not much sleep that week but it was Quite an experience!
Ken Briggs October 18, 2012 at 11:43 PM
I was at the Sunnyvale dump unloading a pickup . I had two friends that were brothers that were truck drivers and one was at one end of the bridge that went down . one was just coming onto that part and the other just got off .
Janice P Ellis October 19, 2012 at 01:07 AM
I remember exactly what I was doing. I had just moved to San Ramon 3 weeks earlier. I had bought many new things for my new home, including a new tv. It sat pretty close to one of the windows in my then livingroom. I had just gotten home from work and turned on the tv to watch the World Series. When the shake, rattle and rolling started, I looked at the tv and it was rocking back and forth. Every time it rocked, it moved closer to going out of the window it was sitting near. At first, I ran over to try to protect my stupid new tv, then I realized, "...you idiot - you had better try to protect yourSELF!" So, I let go of the stupid tv and ran for the nearest doorway. I'll never forget that day.
Jane Buxton October 22, 2012 at 11:14 AM
I was working at Chelsea's Yogurt Shop at the time and the car park betwee us and the cinema was like a river - it was surreal - I'll never ever forget it!!! p.s. Does anyone remember the name of a night club in San Ramon that was open in 1989??? xx
Ken Briggs December 11, 2012 at 01:35 AM
I was at the Sunnyvale dump unloading a pick up with trash ,but lived in east san jose at the time .


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