SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS/AP) – Dozens gathered early Monday morning in downtown San Francisco to commemorate the 105th anniversary of the Great 1906 Earthquake while also remembering victims of last month’s Japan earthquake and tsunami disaster.

There are only three known survivors left from the devastating quake and ensuing fire that killed thousands. Only one of them – Bill Del Monte, who was just a few months old at the time – was able to make this year’s ceremony.

KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

“I saw all the ruins, I played in it. Played in a lot of it on Sansome Street,” he recalled, adding that sad reminders of the quake lasted for years. “Oh yeah, there was still rubble, we called it the coconut lot because that was where they imported coconuts. Two holes in the wall in the back and climbing up in the bricks, playing.”

>>Gallery: 1906 San Francisco Earthquake & Fire

Monday’s event took place shortly after 5 a.m. at Lotta’s Fountain, which was a gathering place for survivors in 1906. It included a moment of silence for the victims of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, and organizers collected American Red Cross donations for the relief effort.

Historians say Japan stepped forward in 1906 to help San Francisco’s victims and gave $250,000 – the most of any other country – toward the city’s recovery. Mayor Ed Lee described it as a gesture San Francisco would never forget, and one of the reasons why, so many years later, residents here have raised nearly $2 million in Japan disaster donations.

“I think it’s natural for San Franciscans to share. We really care,” he suggested. “We care about not only ourselves and our families, we care about what happens in New Zealand, what’s happened in Japan, what happened in Haiti, what happened in New Orleans, what’s even happening in North Carolina with the devastation from the tornadoes and the storms.”

Disaster preparedness officials also marked ’06 quake anniversary by reminding residents all over the Bay Area to takes steps to prepare and protect themselves for when the next disaster strikes.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

“We can’t tell you when the next large earthquake will happen,” acknowledged Susan Garcia with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Earthquake Science Center. “It’s not a question of if, it’s when. And being prepared is the key.”

>>Gallery: San Francisco – Living On Borrowed Time?

“I know what to do when the ground starts shaking,” she continued. “You want to drop, cover and hold. And you want to just wait it out. Cover your head and hold on.”

She pointed to the 1989 Loma Prieta temblor, the 1991 Oakland Hills firestorm, and the San Bruno pipeline blast as proof that disasters will happen in the Bay Area.

“I think those images from Japan, of people pulling the elderly and the young up the hill with those tsunami waves lapping at their feet, that’s what it’s like,” added Sue Piper, special assistant to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. Piper was in the Bay Area 20 years ago when disaster struck. “It’s the same thing that I saw during the Oakland Hills firestorm.”

Piper said one of the most valuable lessons she embraced after the firestorm was getting to know her neighbors.

“Maybe the most important thing is making a plate of cookies and go knock on your neighbors’ doors so you get to know them,” she suggested. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. And when the Hayward fault goes, we could lose a third of our housing.”

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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