The Loma Prieta Earthquake Was 23 Years Ago Today—Where Were You?

If you were in the Bay Area or knew family there 23 years ago, chances are you remember exactly where you were when the earth shook. Share your memories here.

At 5:04 p.m. on Oct. 17, 1989 the ground throughout the Bay Area shook.

A lot of the area's attention was focused on the World Series game that was about to start between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics at Candlestick Park, but suddenly sports was insignificant as a 6.9 quake centered at Loma Prieta in the Forest Nisene Marks State Park rocked Northern California.

The shaking could be felt in nearly all parts of the Bay Area. Many in the North Bay sustained far less damage than their neighbors to the south but nevertheless have vivid memories of that fateful day.

In Marin, a bevy of residents shared their stories for the 20th anniversary of the quake. In the Sacramento region, the quake was not as powerful, but some of our readers who were in the Bay Area at the time of the quake are now living in or near the state capital.

What do you remember about Oct. 17, 1989? How has your life changed since then?

Was the area successful in rebuilding? Are we better prepared than we were 23 years ago?

Have we learned from the disaster?

Peter Williams October 17, 2012 at 09:39 PM
I lived in Oakland, my wife was out on a job. I was walking home from BART and could see waves running down the sidewalk. Power went out, phones didn't work, and I had no idea where my wife was. Turned out she was waiting in line to get on the San Mateo Bridge..... she took the long way around, but it was pretty nerve wracking not knowing where she was. Pre-cell phone
Kevin Moore October 17, 2012 at 09:59 PM
I was in my office in Sausalito talking to someone in the East Bay. Suddenly, she said that she there was an earthquake and she had to go. I was, "What earthquake?" Then my office started shaking. I was worried my manager might get mad that I ran out of the office vs "duck and cover", but I saw him running for the exit. LOL! I'm next! I grabbed a co-worker and ran out the back before HVAC parts came crashing down on us. We watched trucks bounce around and light poles move like fishing rods. A minute later, it was over. It was no big deal until I turned on the news... oh snap! From what I was told; my neighbor was a seismic engineer and was killed on the Cypress Expressway, which he had declared a death trap. All of his buildings did quite well in the quake. Sad bit of life's irony.
Joshua Staab October 18, 2012 at 12:06 AM
I was 8-years-old in my home in San Carlos, getting ready to watch the World Series. I remember thinking it was kind of cool till I saw my mom standing in a doorway with my younger brother. I guess at that point I started processing things and understanding what was really going on. Once the first images started coming in on the news ... it was definitely something I'll never forget. My dad lived at California and Polk in SF. I think he was the first person I talked to besides my mom. I can remember him being very cool and collected through the entire thing.
Bil Paul October 18, 2012 at 03:44 AM
I had left work in San Jose (not that far from the epicenter between San Jose and Santa Cruz) and was on the commuter train (Caltrain) just leaving the San Jose train station. This was an area of uneven track so when the train was swaying back and forth I didn't think anything of it. Then the train stopped. But the motion didn't. I could see electrical wires outside swinging back and forth, also. There was an electroplating company nearby that had vats of acid and some of it had escaped and was running in the gutters. My wife was in a drug store with my young son up in the San Mateo area and products were flying off the shelves during the shaking. She put him on the floor and covered him with her body. It took a long time for the train to continue its trip because all the tracks, bridges, etc. had to be checked for damage first. When I finally got home the power was out. We found it hard to believe that a quake down in the San Jose did so much damage up in the San Francisco area. A good friend's sister died in Oakland when the freeway collapsed and crushed a lot of cars. Many more would've been killed by that collapse but many people had left work early to watch the world series on TV.
Bil Paul October 18, 2012 at 03:58 AM
One of my jobs at that point was putting out an employee magazine for that district of the Postal Service. I had the chance to visit some of the hardest-hit communities to take photos of post office damage, such as Watsonville and Santa Cruz. Postal employees were sorting mail using emergency lighting from generators, and were sorting parcels outside. False ceilings had fallen down in many post offices, safes had slid around the floors, etc. One way or another, the mail got through. At one point in the Bay Area, because the Bay Bridge had partly collapsed, they flew mail between San Fran and Oakland by helicopter.
Reginald "Rex" Henderson October 18, 2012 at 04:39 AM
What the...? Must be an incredibly slow news day.
Art By Lisabelle October 18, 2012 at 10:43 AM
I was in the kitchen, in our Petaluma home, on Cortez St. My Son Robert was only 11 months old, he was sleeping in the bedroom down the hall, nestled between two pillows as to not let him roll off the bed, but under an casement window which worried me, that it could shatter over him. I made it down the hallway, by holding the walls, because the shaking was so violent, that I could barely keep my balance, I grabbed him up into my arms and waited for my Husband and Son AJ to make it home safely. It was horrendous and very frightening, to hear the news afterwards was devastating.
enid haugen October 18, 2012 at 10:49 AM
I was in Berkeley with my infant daughter, visiting my mother. We were going to Hayward to a wholesale shop, but decided not to go at the last minute because of the possible baseball game traffic. I don't think it was the World Series though. It was a game between the Giants and A's. Had we gone, we likely would have been on the Cypress when the earthquake hit. As it turned out, Mom and I pushed my daughter's carriage to Safeway on Shattuck Avenue. It was a big carriage so while she went in the store, I stayed outside. There was a fire truck parked outside. One fireman went inside to buy some snacks and the other one came over to check out my daughter's carriage (it was one of those English nanny carriages). All of a sudden car alarms all over the parking lot started to go off. Then the front of the Coke machine started to jiggle. We kind of laughed it off because it didn't seem like much of a quake. My daughter slept through the whole thing. When the fireman came out of Safeway, he said there wasn't any damage in there. They could see black smoke coming from downtown, but when they checked in, there hadn't been any calls. It turned out to be Husted's Auto repair shop. They took off to see what was going on...no siren. It wasn't until we walked home that we heard about the damage. This was before cell phones, but we had a car phone. It was the only way I could communicate with my husband in Sacramento.
John Poindexter October 18, 2012 at 01:49 PM
I was in Milpitas. First came the "Crack" then the whole house was shaking and it seemed to shake for quite a while. Then things started falling all around me, I was trying to walk to a safe place but it was difficult, I finally made it outside. When it was over I turned on the news to see the all the damage and magnitude. After trying for a while I finally was able to call my family.
Marie Mastrup October 18, 2012 at 02:38 PM
I didn't realize yesterday was the official anniversary, however, due to the weather, I can easily say I am one of the kids from that generation who believe in "earthquake weather". I was saying this just last night! In 1989, I was 6 years-old. My family and I were living in what I remember to be my true childhood home at 312 Wilson Street. In the backyard, facing what used to be Lakeville Liquor, my brother (Nick Mastrup) our neighbor, Tim Holt, a few other neighborhood kids and myself, were jumping off of our make-shift tree-house onto a bunch of mattresses. I always joke that these are the kinds of things kids did before video games and online social-media took over. As I was the youngest and the only girl, I was just about getting ready to jump the 10-12 feet, when I started feeling really sick and dizzy. I looked up, and I saw all of the telephone poles being snapped back and forth (as one person said, it, like fishing-poles!). I thought I was going to be sick! When I looked toward my house, and the ground, I could see all of 'D' and Wilson street rolling like a cement typhoon! I looked down, and all the boys left me! The tree was shaking pretty fiercely and thankfully, my neighbor, Tim Holt, came back to grab me! FInally, inside the house, we watched the street and sidewalks keep rolling like ocean waves. An amazing memory, I hope I never forget! I remember the aftershocks kept coming, and the streets kept rolling!
G Man October 18, 2012 at 03:22 PM
I was living in Germany, half a world away. I never felt a thing. It was a beautiful day. :)
Ruth Fankushen October 18, 2012 at 03:45 PM
I was in downtown Davis at Star Pharmacy on Second Street. The first thing I noticed was that the overhead signs were waving, and then my friend and I felt the earth rolling beneath our feet. It was very surreal.
Jennie October 18, 2012 at 03:59 PM
I was nine years old and making chocolate chip cookies. I remember feeling dizzy and dropping one (I did, however, follow the 5 second rule!) and thinking I might need to go lie down on the couch. Then my mom ran in and asked if I was ok. I didn't know why she would be concerned, and then she pointed to the light fixture above the dining room table and it was swinging pretty good. My dad was at work in SF and we were worried about him being on the bridge, but he hadn't made it that far yet.
Jim Viele October 18, 2012 at 04:03 PM
I was at the IBM Almaden Research Center, seven miles from the epicenter. Shake, rattle and roll, all in one. Felt like flying through very heavy turbulence. Jim Viele
Kathleen Williams October 18, 2012 at 05:19 PM
I was having dinner with my daughter & grand daughter. I though at first that my daughter was playing a joke and jiggling the table. Two seconds later we were all on our hands and knees under the table watching the water slosh out of the fish bowl on a near-by shelf. We & the fish were shaken, but not stirred.
Michael October 18, 2012 at 05:51 PM
In an office building at 3rd and Brannan in SF. As soon as the shaking stopped my first thought was to somehow get across the GG Bridge to home. I knew if the bridge was still open it could be closed soon for inspection. Traveling along the Embarcadero was weird. Flag pole atop the Ferry building was off center. Pieces of concrete from that ugly Embarcaderro high rise end of freeway (remember how it looked before SF got a second chance to re-do the Embarcaderro?). Ran out of gas in the Marina as the gas stations were closed. Huge fires ablaze in the Marina were strangely out of place. People standing the the streets everywhere wondering what would be next. Thumbed a ride across the bridge and into Marin and home. Strange event for sure.
Patricia DuMond October 18, 2012 at 07:06 PM
I was at home in my condo up on Diamond Heights in San Francisco. First thing I noticed was the cat acting strange and then running under the bed. I sat mesmerized on the couch and watched the television shimmy toward the edge of the table it was on. The fish tank was sloshing back and forth. Then the shaking stopped. Later, when the sun had set, I looked out over a dark San Francisco and no light could be seen even across the bay. Very spooky. The next day when I returned to work at UCSF I found out that several of my co-workers had been on a commute van that was on the bay bridge; the van had bounced and fallen, killing several of them. A very sad day indeed. My husband was at the World Series... he said the stands started shaking badly and people were freaking out; he was praying that the stands held. After the shaking the announcer told everybody in the lower bleachers to move onto the field and the upper bleacher to come down to the lower bleachers. However, security would not let people onto the field so it was a massive push and shove mess. .
Haggis October 18, 2012 at 07:22 PM
I was at the Mill Valley Citibank ATM, felt the shake and looked down Throckmorton to see the lamp posts bowing to each other. Fortunately, when I got home all was well and the family felt only a mild shake. Television showed us how bad the destruction was and how lucky we were.
don October 18, 2012 at 11:27 PM
I am my family were living in Inverness at the time. I was watching the TV and suddenly it went blank then I saw ground waves. I watched as the really tall Eucalyptus trees started to shake / wave then the ground shock hit our house. The house shook pretty good. I realized my youngest son was on a creek hike with his friends and got really concerned. My older son was in his bedroom doing home work. He never stopped the homework. My younger son got back to the house and said the creek valley they were in, "started shaking and rocks were falling form the creek walls." He said it was "really cool." (10 years old)! The hose skylights leaked until fixed in the winder but that was all. The scariest part of the who thing was seeing San Francisco totally in the dark and the fires in the Marina. There was a lesson to be learned, That's how vulnerable we truly are to the earths' whim! I am a person not easily impressed, been through typhoons at sea (three at once) between south east Asia and the Philippine islands on a 400' destroyer, however that was play time compared to the power I saw displayed by mother earth on the day of the Loma Prieta.
Richard Breedon October 19, 2012 at 06:13 AM
An employee of UC Davis, I was in Japan, at the airport on the southern main island of Shikoku waiting for a flight back to Tokyo, when I saw the news on the lobby TV. Being very familiar with earthquakes, the Japanese watching along with me were stunned into silence. The house I later bought in Davis in 1993 had a crack running through the brick facade that I was told was a result of the earthquake.
lev January 06, 2013 at 03:41 AM
Hi Marie ~ Didn't mean to disappear in thin air on you. - Lev, h2o.5.nz@spamgourmet.com


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