The earthquake was on my 20th birthday, and I was attending UC Santa Cruz at the time, a few miles from the epicenter. We were in one of the biggest classrooms on campus, watching “2001: A Space Odyssey,” when it struck. Ran outside to see massive redwoods swaying like palm trees. Later that night, a few hundred people sang me happy birthday, all of us having been steered onto a local field and away from the rattled apartments where we lived. Alas, there was not enough cake to go around.