28th and California

Robert Lewis

I was a tender twenty-three, recently married to a woman eight years my senior, a woman from Youngstown, OH. We’d met and married in San Diego. I’d always wanted to live in San Francisco since I’d first visited back when I was thirteen. So, on my urging, we decided to make the move, selling my 1965 Mustang for moving money. I’d come up a few days before her to meet the moving van. The apartment was out on the southeast corner of 28th and California, in the Outer Richmond. It was a studio on the street level, however when you came in through the door you would take three steps down into the room, so it was really a basement-style apartment.

My wife arrived exactly twenty-four hours before the quake. We were unpacking when it hit. Now, I’ve lived in California my entire life and have been in some big quakes, but this one was crazy big. The world started to shake, the ground beneath coming alive in this rolling wave motion. Having never been in an earthquake before, my poor wife completely freaked, running around like a chicken without a head. I grabbed her and pulled her to the front door where we stood in the doorway together while the quake seemed to go on and on.

I will never forget how eerily quiet it was when it was over. A huge vacuum of silence. We saw smoke rising from the direction of the Marina. There was no power, and so we walked over to my sister and brother-in-law’s house, over on 31st and Anza. We spent the rest of that night eating a great salad my sister threw together and getting drunk by candle light, her husband wearing these funny glasses that had pen lights over each ear.