Friday, October 16, 2009

Where were you twenty years ago?

Where were you on October 17, 1989 at 5:04pm PDT? I remember where I was -- like it was yesterday.

I was supposed to be on a bus heading home from a 7th grade volleyball game in Piedmont, but I'd decided to skip the game that day. I was not a dedicated team member until eighth grade. Instead, I was sitting on my parents' bed watching reruns of The Cosby Show. Normally I wouldn't watch TV in my parents' room, but my little brother was watching the pregame for The Battle of the Bay: the A's vs Giants World Series on our main TV. I was not interested, even in a dual between our two hometown teams. And, twenty years later, I still think baseball is boring.

When the Loma Prieta quake started, I remember turning to look out the window and seeing our back lawn rolling. It looked like waves on a lake and the rolling seemed to go on forever. There was a contractor outside -- I think he was finishing up installing new Anderson windows. He was standing on a small ladder in order to reach the window. I'd hate to think what might have happened to him had our windows been on a second story.

When the quake ended, the game was postponed and The Cosby Show interrupted by the local news. With nothing else to do, my brother and I headed outside to talk with our neighbors and compare notes on the quake. We sat on the end of the concrete wall that separated our property from our neighbors' and wondered whether or not we'd have to go to school the next day. You see, in the Bay Area, there are no weather-related school closings. The weather just doesn't lend itself to snow days or heat days or hurricanes or tornadoes. In fact, I'm positive that the only school closing I ever experienced was following the October 17th earthquake.

It's funny how we mark our lives with these kinds of collective experiences. For our parents, it was the JFK assassination. For me, I remember where I was when the Challenger exploded, when the massacre occured at Columbine, on 9/11, in the aftermath of Katrina, and during the VA Tech shooting. But the one I think about on its anniversary every year, the one with the clearest pictures in my head, was the Loma Prieta quake.

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