October 17, 1989 — Moments before game three of the 1989 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics, fans were thrown from their seats at Candlestick Park as the Loma Prieta earthquake brought the Bay Area to its knees.
Players rushed to their families, cradling their children on the field. Outside, the Bay Bridge collapsed and the Marina burst into flames. The quake shook for 15 seconds and reached 6.9 on the Richter Scale – the largest San Francisco had seen since the devastating earthquake of 1906. When the night was through, 63 people were dead, 3,757 were injured and thousands were left homeless. – Huffington Post, October 17, 2012
Aerial view of roadbed collapse near the interface of the cantilever and truss sections of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. (AKA “The Bay Bridge”)
I was at Garry’s place. Boston. I’d just gotten back from the coast. Oakland, where I was working a free-lance job with the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), the water and sewer company which serves Berkeley and Oakland. I’d come home early because I had caught the flu and wanted nothing more than hot soup, sympathy, a bed and a pillow.
Garry added to that watching the World Series. Baseball fanatic that he is, he never misses it, even when our team is not involved. He loves not just our team, but the game.
I was already in bed, propped up on pillows. The game started, then there was some kind of ruckus and then a picture of a bridge, one section collapsed.
I knew that bridge. I’d been driving across it, back and forth, then getting onto the 880 to Oakland from Berkeley.
“Hey,” I called, “Garry! The Bay Bridge is down!” He came in.
“You sure?” he asked.
“I’ve been taking that bridge every day for the past few weeks. I’d know it anywhere. What’s going on out there? Earthquake?”
This was CNN’s big moment, the event that put it on the media map because they were the first on the scene, the first with pictures. More information started to come in. The Bay Bridge had partially fallen. Worse, the upper level of route 880 had collapsed, trapping commuters in their cars underneath.
If I hadn’t gotten sick, if I hadn’t come back to Boston early, I would have been one of those commuters … or on the bridge.
That was a close one. Too close.