SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — To long-time San Franciscans there is no greater reminder of the lasting impact of 1989’s killer Loma Prieta Earthquake than the beautiful vistas along the waterfront.
At the time of the quake, 30 years ago, the elevated Embarcadero Freeway was a concrete eyesore along the waterfront, blocking views from Market Street and the neighboring Financial District.
The majestic Ferry Building clock tower was hidden and easily unnoticed next to the sprawling roadway.
That all changed at 5:04 p.m. — a time frozen on the clock face for weeks. The leaning flag tower on on top of the Ferry Building became a symbol of a city broken when the earth moved.
The freeway was damaged and later removed – replaced by a plaza and pristine views of the Bay.
Elsewhere, it was a day marked by ordinary people doing extraordinary acts of bravery.
Be it the West Oakland residents and workers from a nearby tire store who climbed into the crumpled remains of the Cypress Structure and desperately searched for for survivors from the crushed and burning cars.
In the Marina District, the fire hydrants were rendered useless as apartment buildings and homes burned. The San Francisco Fire Department parked it fireboat and pumping engines along the water front and dozens of ordinary citizens – many still dressed in work clothes – joined the fire lines.
South of Market, dozens of bystanders urgently dug into the crumbled bricks from a façade that came crashing down onto cars, burying the vehicles and their occupants underneath the debris.
Those are the memories of the reporters who covered the quake. Please share with us your memories of the fateful day on the KPIX 5 Facebook Page and we will also add some to this story.
Here are some of the responses we’ve received.
Mike Boddye posted that he had crossed the Bay Bridge an hour before the quake struck.
“I had crossed that bridge going west about an hour before that happened,” he wrote. “Didn’t even know it happened till the next day. Every time I hear of San Francisco I think about that. Weird feeling to know that God wanted me around a little bit longer.”
Gabriela Vasquez was a youngster playing hide-and-seek when the earth moved.
“I remember it like yesterday,” she wrote. “I was 3 years old playing hide and go seek with my mother when the apartment started shaking. We lived in a new apartment building in the Mission. I remember we went out to the deck and my mom was yelling, ‘Dios mio el edificio nos va a caer encima’ and I was like what is going on!!! Later we went downstairs and there was no power, that was the scary part for me.”
Billy Don recalled the human kindness after the shaker.
“One of the interesting things about that day was the level of common courtesy that was shown amongst the drivers as they went home to check on loved ones in San Jose,” he wrote. “The traffic lights didn’t work in some places due to power outages, but everyone patiently waited one at a time to cross the intersection when it was their turn. Everyone was afraid to use their gas stoves for fear of a leak, but thank God the local KFC was open and the drive thru line was an honest 1/4 mile long.”