Facing the Embarcadero

Lydia Steinauer

Stretched out on the living room rug, I was designing my high school senior yearbook page when the television began to shake.

“What’s wrong with the game?” my dad asked, horrified that anything would dare interrupt a world series playoff game between the Oakland A’s and his beloved Giants.

We lived on the 8th floor of an apartment building facing the Embarcadero Center and Ferry Building. We also lived on landfill. Moments after the shaking started, the TV screen went black. We all ran into the hallway and crouched down as the walls bowed and shivered around us. But what I remember most was the sound; it was as though the earth was growling. Why had no one ever told me that earthquakes could be loud?

When we assessed the damage, I was devastated to see that my chocolate Teddy Grahams had gotten soggy from the fish tank’s sloshing water. But I was in disaster mode, and I loved chocolate, so I ate them anyway.

soggy teddy grahams 1989

For months afterwards, the flagpole atop the Ferry Building leaned just a little to the right. Even the Embarcadero Freeway, usually flowing with the constant hum of cars below my window, was silent- an eery reminder that our city had in a matter of seconds been changed forever.

220 Sansome to the Ferry Building

Michael Nolan

Veronica’s voice returned on the phone.  She and colleague Zula were now under a desk at Port offices in the Ferry Building.  I was on the 14th floor of 220 Sansome, corner of Pine, when Loma Prieta struck. We had been discussing the San Francisco Sailing Center project proposed for Piers 24-26 on the waterfront.

I felt stable again after the dizzying sway of the building where I sat, grateful I faithfully held onto the phone during the earthquake.

I followed other building tenants as we descended the 14 floors to the street below.  I walked onto the sunny and relatively calm streets of the financial district, headed to 814 Mission, the old Call building where I used to work at the SF State Downtown Center.  They had phone service and I reached my children in the East Bay who were deeply concerned about my safety.  And I about theirs.