Wizards of Oz

"Life is fraughtless ... when you're thoughtless."

17.10.09

20 Years Later


Twenty years ago today, I was a third-semester senior at the University of California at Berkeley. My favorite baseball team, the Oakland A's, were in the World Series facing the neighboring San Francisco Giants in the "Bay Bridge Series". Though the media moguls hated such a "local" World Series, I thought it was the best ever. That is, until Game Three....

During pre-game warmups, as I sat in my room across the Bay in Alameda, the intial jolts of the Loma Prieta earthquake began knocking books off of my shelves. ABC sportscaster Al Michaels turned to his right and said "We're having an earth...", immediately followed by static then a power outage. That fifteen seconds of violent shaking (7.1 surface wave magnitude) felt more like fifteen minutes.

Of the 57 people who lost their lives as a direct result of Loma Prieta, 42 of them were on the Cypress Section of Interstate-880 in northwest Oakland (the photo above). Perhaps the "Bay Bridge Series" had a positive effect, minimizing the amount of traffic that would normally be on this main traffic artery connecting the East Bay and Peninsula during rush hour (the quake occurred at 5:04pm local). That section of freeway would normally have hundreds of vehicles bumper-to-bumper this time of day.... It was also a route that I often took to Cal, having traversed the lower deck the morning prior.

Today, the Cypress is a ground-level, side-by-side freeway. Structural standards for elevated roads have strengthened. And the skill of the first responders in containing the fires that followed prevented a repeat of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake (which claimed more than 3,000 lives). Oh, and the A's swept the Giants, outscoring them 32-14 in four games after a ten-day pause due to the earthquake.

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