Live Oak School

Nicole Hsiang

On October 17th, 1989, I was just a month shy of turning 6 years old and in the first grade at Live Oak School in the Castro.

This was just another day of after school day care for me where we normally make arts and crafts and play in the school yard. At the moment of the earthquake, the activity of the day happened to be making pomander balls,  which is an orange with cloves stuck in all around it.  I probably didn’t understand entirely the purpose of making a pomander ball but I do remember being very focused on piercing the orange skin with each clove. This is when the room started shaking. All of us kids went under the table and I held on to one of the table’s legs.

making pomander 1989

Then I remember asking my teacher what happened and he said, “There was an earthquake. We have go downstairs now.” I held his hand and we joined a sea of kids rapidly moving down the stairs. At this point I registered that something out of ordinary had happened, something of emergency-level importance.  This is when I got scared and started crying, from the sight of all the people rushing out the building.

Pretty quickly after we exited the building and walked next door to Eureka Valley Playground, I saw my dad walking towards me on the grass to pick me up. We got into his car and drove home.

When we got home, the sun was starting to set. The house seemed normal at first. In the bathroom however, items had fallen from a shelf above the toilet, and had cracked the toilet seat. There was soapy liquid all over the floor. I exclaimed to my dad that the toilet seat had broken and he came over to see. There was no electricity and soon the house got dark.  We used flashlights and lit candles.

At home, I remember that my dad and I were waiting for my mom to call for what seemed like a long time. We didn’t know where she was.  Eventually she called. I don’t remember what happened next, but she got home and we were finally all together.

The last thing I remember, is the three of us getting into my parents bed together, and I was sleeping in the middle between them. There was a candle lit on top of the dresser for a little while, and when I woke up the next morning the candle had been blown out.