In 1989 I was not quite 12, and attending Parkside Junior High in San Bruno. On this particular day, my dad had picked me up after school and we were at my grandmother’s house on Holly Avenue, at the top of what felt like a big hill – especially when you were on your bike at the bottom.
When the earthquake hit, I was sitting on the couch watching TV. My dad was on the phone with my mom, and my grandmother and great grandmother were both in the house. Being a well-seasoned earthquake veteran, I was prepared to ride it out. My dad was shouting for me to get outside, and I almost certainly said “Take a chill pill, Dad – it’s just an earthquake.”
I sauntered out while he collected grandmothers, and I could not believe my eyes. My grandmother’s concrete patio was rolling like a wave – I had no idea concrete could move that way without cracking. That is easily the part that stands out to me the most – as it was the moment I realized this wasn’t like other quakes I had been through.
The phone lines had gone down, so my mom was freaking out that she couldn’t get a hold of us, while we watched the impact unfold on the news. I couldn’t believe that something I thought was “just another little earthquake” had caused so much death and destruction.
I still try to remember what the city looked like back when the Embarcadero was covered by an overpass, and super seedy at street level, and I just can’t quite do it.