life_of_glamour: (shattered)
[personal profile] life_of_glamour
So BART is on strike. Is Oct 18th just the day for calamity and difficulty in the Bay Area? Remember the big Oakland Hills Fire? OK, that started on Oct 19th, but that's pretty close.

Anywhere, here's my Big Loma Prieta Earthquake story: I was 15, a sophomore in high school. I was up in the Santa Cruz mountains being a counselor for 6th grade science camp. Sixth Grade Science Camp was a tradition among Santa Clara Valley schools - all the 6th graders go away to sleepover camp for part of a week and have hikes and lessons on nature and stuff like that. I remembered my week at science camp fondly, and it was a chance to get out and do something different, so once I was eligible to be a counselor (really just an older kid who took charge of a group of kids, slept in their cabin with them and generally kept an eye on things) I signed up.

The 18th was, I think, Tuesday, and the kids had just arrived that day - I think the teenaged counselors got there Monday so we'd been there a day already getting told what to expect for the week. The kids had been all assigned to cabins and counselors and had put their sleeping bags and things in the cabin. Each of the cabins was divided down the middle by a wall into two distinct rooms with their own entrance door and bunk beds for 8 or 10 kids. Each room had a counselor and gaggle of kids assigned to it.

So, the kids had arrived, settled in, maybe we'd gone for a hike or something, I don't remember. When the earthquake struck the counselors were on a break while the kids had a class or something. My sister, some friends (these were bad-news friends, btw) and I were sitting on the porch of the big lodge room. That porch was next to the 15-foot high lodge room wall made of windows, btw. There was a creek running below where we sat. We were sitting there, I think some of the bad-news friends were smoking maybe, and suddenly all the ducks on the creek took off flying. Then the earth starting moving and the roar started. We all took a lookt a the giant wall of windows jittering and shuddering and the panes of glass shaking hard and we ran down the side porch steps (once we realized we were all feeling it and it was indeed an earthquake). Once down the stairs I grabbed a tree and held on. I didn't know what else to do, and the earthquake just kept going and going. We were less than 10 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake where we were in the Santa Cruz mountains, so the shaking was extremely sharp and strong.

When it finally stopped the next thing I remember is the adult staff at the camp telling us to check our cabins. The dividing wall in my cabin had broken in half - there was now a giant space you could walk through between the two rooms of the cabin. Most of the cabins were damaged in some fashion. So we were told to have our kids get their gear because the safest thing now would be for everyone to sleep out in the open where there would be no danger of anything falling in the event of aftershocks. There was no way to arrange an evacuation as night was already closing in and it would be impossible to get everyone out that night.

And so all several-hundred of us - kids, teenage counselors, adult staff, teacher chaperones - slept on a baseball diamond in our sleeping bags. And all night long the ground quivered and shook and rolled and twitched under us. Every time a large aftershock jolted through the camp the kids would start whispering and giggling. I don't remember anybody crying or being scared. However, the adult staff would occasionally tell us reports they'd heard from the outside world on a walkie-talkie they had - we were told that the Bay Bridge had collapsed (not quite true), several people said something about the World Series but I was pretty unaware of sports at that time so I didn't pay attention - and those reports were deemed to be bad for morale so pretty quickly that was stopped.

The next day the buses came and picked everyone up to take them back to their respective schools, and when I got home to Sunnyvale I found that the pool in the back yard had been mostly emptied and the accompanying backyard-tsunami had redistributed the soil and plants in a way that made the chickens most pleased. I have a very strong memory of opening the back gate and seeing very happy chickens picking their way around the wreckage, finding new bugs and worms.

A few things fell over in the house, but I don't think anything of value was broken, or nothing I cared about enough to remember it now. But the most vivid memory that I have now is sleeping on the ground that night after the earthquake, less than 10 miles from the epicenter, feeling and hearing the earth quivering and jolting and grumbling all night long.
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