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What we remember

I remember being swept up by big arms, being protected by a man 6' foot tall, crushed against another child. I remember the shaking extended for what seemed like an endless period of time. I remember feeling safe under the man, under the table, nestled next to three other 8-yr-old kids.

I can see the floor buckle, the cracks spread across linoleum. I can feel the earth roll and jerk in ways I never thought feasible. I can see the three foot long slice in the ceiling, plaster falling.

And I remember the waiting. I can touch the grass of the day-care center, putting my ear to the earth and listening for aftershocks. I watched as child after child left with joyous parents until it was me and one other child. I can feel the quickening of breath, the fear that perhaps I'd never leave the daycare, I'd grow old there.

The relief, I remember that too when my mom arrived. Oh, the happy reunion! It would be hours before my dad would come home - cell phones didn't exist for us then, so we had to hope for the best.

Our home was fine. It had shifted in ways that it shouldn't. But it was mostly minor damage, fallen books, broken picture frames. The beloved hutch cabinet proved its mettle by moving a mere 2 inches without tumbling. It could have been far worse, it was for thousands of others.

Even though I was young, a child, my brain remembers the footage of cars falling off the top portion of the Bay Bridge and the horrific collapse of the Cypress section of the Nimitz freeway. The horror stories of cutting people out of their vehicles, off torn limbs and of crushed bodies. The fires burned. It was surreal.

It's been twenty years today since the Loma Prieta quake. It's nice to know that fifty years from now, I'll be able to remember all the mixed emotions from fear to relief; from sadness to happy reunions. All of it. Even if I can't remember what I had for breakfast.


Oct. 18th, 2009 01:35 am (UTC)
Perhaps it's because I was alone during the earthquake, I only have funny memories of getting to the drinking fountain at school just in time to hang on while the pavement moved in hilarious ways underneath me. To this day I still think of the first description I used to describe my experience during the quake whenever someone mentions it: "My butt was doing La Bamba."

My second memory is of the man who was trapped on the bridge for five days and how his first request after getting rescued was for Oreos and milk. I wish the third memory wasn't how he died shortly thereafter.

Fourth memory: jealousy that some kid in my class reported his model dinosaur falling off a bookcase and breaking. I thought that was so cool.

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