Living On A Earthquake Fault Line

October 17, 1989

What is so special about this day you might ask……Well this how I remember it:

It was the World Series game 3 “Battle of the Bays” the San Francisco Giants vs. Oakland A’s. I was and A’s baseball fan and my hero at the time was Rickey Henderson (I have almost every baseball card made of him).

I was 14yrs old and an only child and it was about 4:45pm when I got home from school. My parents were at work. I lived at my parents with my wiener dog named Harvey. It was a two story house way up in the Redwood Mountains. The first story consisted of an Office, Spare Bedroom, Laundry Room and a Bathroom. The second story consisted of the Kitchen, Living Room, Parents’ Bedroom, My Bedroom and a Bathroom.

I turned on the TV in the living room and went to the kitchen to make myself a snack before the game started, and I looked at the clock and saw it was like 5:05pm and decided to go to the bathroom before the game started.

So the main bathroom was between my parents’ bedroom and my bedroom. My bedroom also had a door to the outside that you could walk down a little steep hill to the first floor where the parking lot was.
As you walk in to the bathroom you have a sink with a mirrored medicine cabinet above it to the left and next to that is the toilet that faced the shower that had two very heavy glass shower doors.

Harvey was acting a little strangely and followed me into the bathroom and didn’t want to leave my side as I was sitting there just starting to do my business……then “IT HAPPENED” one of the longest 10-15sec of my life…the glass shower doors started to raddled extremely violently and I felt the ground moving, along with hearing things around the house breaking, and the power going out.....I stood up and pulled up my pants and grabbed Harvey and went out of the bathroom to the door frame of my room. I didn’t want to be in the door frame of the bathroom with all that glass that could have been very dangerous if it would break.

After the first initial shock wave was over I decided not to stay in the house because I knew there were going to be a lot of aftershocks to come, some small and some big. I figured if I was at least outside I would not have to worry about things falling or breaking around me. So I took Harvey and picked up my “Boom Box” and went out my door to the outside. I then set down Harvey and I was looking all around the area to see if any damage happened to the house or my surrounding. We walked half way down the hill so I was between the second and first story and turned on my radio to listen to the news to see how bad was it and how far did it reach…..
I then stayed with my dog by my side listening to the radio wondering when or if my parents were going to be coming home? Both of the jobs were about 30min to 45min away from home and there was only two ways to get home and they were both very windy mountain roads. I was starting to get worried as it was around 6:30ish it was getting dark, cold, and had to deal with multiple aftershocks, plus neither of my parents were home as of yet. I knew also by listening to the radio of all the destruction and road closures. Time was running out, was I going to be here by myself? I then decided that I was going to have to go back in the house and grab a blanket and a flashlight. Then I heard on the news one of the two roads for my parents to get home was CLOSED and they were getting close to closing the only other road to home.

Where were my parents? Are they okay….? I knew I couldn’t think that way I need to stay positive….

As 7:30 approached I all of a sudden heard a car and it sounded like it was coming up our driveway which was about 300ft long, and it has about a 40deg slope to it. I then saw headlights yes…but who is it my mom or was it my dad?

It ended up being my mom. She stopped the car at the top of the drive way and ran to me and gave me a big tight hug. So once she let me go we started explain our experiences of the Earthquake. She was telling me when the earthquake hit how she was driving on the windy and curvy highway, the larger of the two to get to our house and it had concrete dividers to separate the traffic going the other way. She said you could see the other cars go up and down and then the concrete dividers were exploding due to the stress it was under and also there were cracks forming on the highway and there were land slide of dirt coming down the mountain and starting to block the highway. Then she explained that as the earthquake was happening most the cars had stopped not knowing what to do. A couple of large dirt boulders fell on to the highway a few cars if front of her so she was worried she couldn’t get home to me and then a big rig truck must have felt the same as my mom…because he took his truck and ran over the large dirt boulders back and forth to brake them down so other cars could get by and then took off up the highway clearing a path. So she explained how she and a whole bunch of other cars decided to go and follow the big truck as it was clearing the way.

As we were sitting outside still telling our stories and still feeling the aftershocks and listening to the radio. It was around 9:15 or so and the radio announcer says that they just shut down the highway that is the last to get to our house, and still my dad was not home.

My mom and I decided to stay outside a little bit longer to wait and hope my dad was okay and still on his way home, but there was no way to know what has happened to him.

So as my mom and I were going to go inside because it was getting really cold I again heard a car and then headlights coming up the driveway. It was my dad…..I felt so relieved that all of my family was safe and we were together.

My dad was one of the very last vehicles go be able to drive on that highway before they closed it down.

So when my dad got home both of us went through the house to check out any damages and to see if it was safe to sleep there tonight. After the inspection all looked good we had a few broken things and some cracks in the walls, but that being said it was in good shape. It was not as bad as other destruction that I saw where houses got cut in half or completely destroyed to a pile of rubble. We were very fortunate to still have a standing house with very little damage and a safe family.

My dad started a fire in our wood burning stove to start to heat the house because of being up in the mountains. We probably weren’t going to get power for 5-7 days or it could even take more days than that. Luckily we had plenty of water and food at the house.

I remember a couple days after the Earthquake I remember going on to the same highway that my mom was the first one over the mountain and my dad was one of the last over it. It is a very unique and eerie situation to be standing in the middle of the highway with NO CARS. We ran into a few people on bikes on the highway. There were cracks about 6-18 inches wide and some areas where the pavement was lifted by 1-3 feet in the air it was very surreal.

As life went on the roads started to get repaired and roads were getting opened and building were getting rebuilt. It is amazing when you look back at any natural disaster or even a horrific event how us as a humans that can have all types of hatred and disgust to one another and a devastating event happens that we can put that all aside and unite together to help each other and rebuild our homes and infrastructures so we can get back to our daily lives as we knew it.
Here is a link to learn more about the earthquake and it has some pictures:
Joey75 Joey75
36-40, M
4 Responses Jan 20, 2013

Thanks for sharing. I remember that day. That morning I was on the lower level of the Nimitz freeway going to San Francisco. Missed it by about 8 hours. Same with Northridge a few years later. You were a strong young man.

Thanks it was scary at the time but knew I had to keep myself in check....

I am impressed how well you handled the situation

Thank you very much

I remember that day..... it was scary

Great story. Only earthquake i"ve seen is on T.V. I'm sure its quite an experience. Glad to hear you come out ok

We have had a lot of them but by far the was biggest I have every experienced!!