16th and Hoff in the Mission

Erick O.

I was five years old when the earthquake hit, so it took me some time to remember things and even what I remember isn’t very much. We had just left Mexico City less than a year before the earthquake, starting out in Concord before my parents found this old apartment on 16th and Hoff, so we had very recently moved into San Francisco. My mom and dad had no idea we were about to experience our second earthquake in three years, with us having survived the huge one in Mexico City in 1986.

That evening, my mother was cooking dinner, hot dogs with jalapeño and onion. My dad was in the shower. It was his day off so he didn’t have to cross the bridge to work as a server at the Chevy’s in Berkeley. I was laying down on the bed watching cartoons, probably Ducktales, but I’m not really sure.

Suddenly, the TV, the bed, the whole house began to shake. Knowing it was an earthquake, my parents instantly sprinted from their respective locations in the kitchen and bathroom to grab me from the bedroom. They launched themselves through the door at the same time and I held onto their hands as they rushed us towards the exit.

As my mother was approaching the door, for some reason she turned around. In that moment, she saw that my father was completely naked, having completely forgotten that he’d just been in the shower moments before. “You’re not wearing anything!” she shouted.

My dad looked down at himself and rushed back to grab a towel.

Out on the street, all the neighbors were there. They were speaking Spanish to each other, hushed and nervous. Pops talked to the neighbors, clutching my small Go Bots towel with one hand and gesturing with the other, He occasionally shivered from the cold, his feet bare on the concrete. Everything and everyone was cast in a soft light as golden hour descended upon us. Mom trembled from both the cold and fear, holding onto me.

At some point, mom wasn’t sure if she had turned the stove off, so my dad had to run back. The stove was in fact still on, so our dinner was burnt. He turned it off.

We tried to resume business as usual shortly after that, but my dad’s shower was interrupted again with the aftershocks. My mother said the second time, the house leaned like a ship sinking into the sea. After that, Mom refused to go back into the house because she could still remember the chaos and terror of the Mexico City earthquake three years earlier, when the house nearly split apart. In that moment, she could still hear my grandma’s husband yelling “Throw me the kid!” as he motioned for them to drop my infant self from the second story.

When the aftershocks finally settled, we went to my uncle’s house in Concord. The Bay Bridge had fallen apart, so Pops sped through the San Mateo Bridge, hoping nothing would happen as we crossed. We spent the next few days in Concord and after that, none of my uncles in Concord wanted to visit us in San Francisco.