Today marks 30 years ago that the Loma Prieta earthquake hit, a day forever etched in my mind and psyche: the longest 15 seconds of my life.
I was a junior in high school and had just finished a water polo match at Santa Cruz High. I had driven across town to do some record shopping in Capitola Village at Blue Rhythm Records, looking for some coveted reggae vinyl to add to my collection. As I was digging in the bins, flipping through the albums all of a sudden I felt the walls start to thrust violently side to side. I knew immediately what was happening and ran to the door way to brace myself in the door frame as I’d be instructed to do since youth in preparedness for just such an occasion.
As I was bunkered in, a woman ran up to me and pushed me out the door, “Get out! Go” she yelled, imploring me to move to the middle of the four way intersection. As I stood there back-to-back with several other people in the closest area free from structures I watched as the earth cracked below our feet, the train trestle a hundred feet up swayed back and forth like a toy model, and the windows of all the store fronts began exploding in slow motion, shattering and spraying over the parked cars along the main thoroughfare like waves.
I looked up again at the trestle and thought to myself in a surreal moment, ‘well, I’ve had a good life and I’m thankful for all that I’ve had and experienced.” — a rather mature and sanguine thought for a 17 year old in the moment of crisis and utter disaster.
Then the earth finally stopped shaking, or should I say rolling as that’s what it felt like. I looked around the roads were buckled, structures toppled, people yelling, crying, and everything in disarray. It took me forever to get back across town with so many roads closed due to open cracks and downed bridges and there was no way to communicate as many phone lines were down and cell phones didn’t really exist yet in mass numbers. I was able to get home safely and find my friends and family, fortunate that nobody I knew had been injured or died. I later found out that the epicenter was just a few miles from where I stood, located in the redwood forest above by Nisene Marks State Park.