30 years ago today, shortly after 5:00 pm, I was sitting on the stoop outside the Nob Hill restaurant at which I worked in San Francisco, smoking a cigarette. The lunch rush was long over, and the dinner rush hadn’t started.

It was hot; very hot that day. We called it earthquake weather. Little did we know.

All of a sudden, I felt a large jolt, and my first instinct was to stand in the doorway; then I remembered that I would be surrounded by several heavy plate glass windows. The next thing I remember, I was standing in the middle of Powell Street, praying that a cable car didn’t come hurtling down the hill.

The earthquake only lated about 10-15 seconds, but it seemed like an eternity. I was lucky. Since I lived and worked on Nob Hill, most of the buildings around me were built on bedrock. That doesn’t mean that there was no damage, but it was nowhere near as severe as it would turn out to be in the Marina District of San Francisco, on the Bay Bridge, at the Cypress Freeway in Oakland, or further south in Santa Cruz near the epicenter in Loma Prieta.

Collapsed building the Marina District of San Francisco. Photo by C.E. Meyer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
These were the days before cell phones. It took me a couple of days to be able to get through to my mom & stepdad in Arizona to let them know that I was okay. If I remember correctly, I asked them to contact my dad who was working in Germany at that time to let him know I was okay as well.

I had no power for several days. Battery powered radio kept me somewhat informed as to what was going on, and I did manage to pick up newspapers which somehow still got printed.

Thankfully, no one I knew was hurt or killed. I had friends whose apartment buildings were ultimately condemned, but no one was immediately put out on the streets.

Like I said, we were the lucky ones.

When I finally got power back and was able to watch the news, seeing the devastation in the Marina and in Oakland was very sobering. This was my first and so far only brush with a major natural disaster, and it is humbling to know how much power there is to destroy within the earth.