5:04 p.m., on the phone discussing traffic handling arrangements for the World Series, when all of the sudden the room began to move in a most scary manner. I told Scott (he was on the other end of the line) that I thought we were having an earthquake and hung up! I tried to get under my door, but after looking up and seeing all that glass, I tried to get back under my desk. No luck, I wound up in the outer office.
the building stopped shaking, I looked down the hall (the lights were still
on) and could not see anything, that is, damage. But, I kept hearing--
I organized the secretaries and, after searching the adjacent offices, led them down the stairs and out of the building.
At the time, I do not recall a special awareness of the damage in the building, except to note that there would be a lot of work for the custodians.
I have described the E.O.C. elsewhere, but the professional calm that pervaded the building and the people in it was very contagious. I do not think that anyone made a special effort not to panic, but all reacted very responsibly and with an extreme confidence. Many of the things that I saw that were noteworthy included:
Many people responded with kindness and a lot were completely overwhelmed by their losses. At the Marina Middle School, where we had established a Field Command Post, people were first told about the condition of their properties. Some reacted with stoic calm and others could not handle the bad news. I remember a most dramatic scene of a Building Inspector consoling one who had lost all.
We tried to utilize people in those roles that they were trained for, but were not always successful. We were eventually able to get some social workers to sit with those that had experienced severe losses to help, them cope with their situation.
Meals, some on the run and some to run from. Cold pizza sitting on a shelf. Lots of fresh fruit, soft drinks, and bottled water. The people from Project Open Hand were really great. They brought in hot food that had good flavor and was filling. I remember my first really good meal, it was later in the week and I was really hungry. They brought in some hot pasta. It smelled good! But there were no utensils. After looking around for a couple of minutes, I just started in with my fingers. I decided that I could not wait for someone go out and get a fork and let my meal get cold. Gradually, we all settled into a survival mode that let us eat when hungry, generally food that was edible and somewhat warm. Fortunately, the conditions returned to normal after a couple of weeks so no one suffered too much.
Traveling around the City was deceiving. You could drive for blocks and not see any damage. And then in the Marina, parts of the Mission and South of Market, there was a lot of damage every block. once in a while, you might find some by surprise. I remember driving north on Clayton Street and spotting a car parked at the curb. It was a VW with the top caved in. I got out to see why. There was a pile of bricks piled neatly on the sidewalk beside it. Then I looked up. The bricks had come off the side of the building. Another time we were looking at a badly damaged building on Front Street. Just over the top of it, I thought I saw a partially-damaged brick wall. Sure enough, upon further inspection, the building next to the one of concern had experienced a partial collapse.
Victories! Few and far between. One of note was getting the building at the corner of Beach and Divisadero Streets back up on its piers. Oh, yes, someone ordered a strike on the Marina. No not a labor walk-out, but a Naval maneuver. One designed to put out the fire and establish a fire-free zone.
Tears and laughter, joy and grief. Many emotions ran together during the post earthquake period. Frustration, impatience, forgiveness and thanksgiving all compete for a place in the action. But, most of all, there was a resoluteness of thought that silently spoke of overcoming all difficulties in the end.
Gradually, as we got back to work, the sharpness of each event dulled. But, the dedication of those involved never flagged. The workers from the Conservation Corps, the volunteers, folks from PG&E, and most of all the men and women of the Department of Public Works, all hung in and worked to make things well.
is now four months later. Joann Cooney organized a thank you party for
the DPW employees at the Civic Auditorium. There was entertainment by the
DPW Choir and a group of young people that had Patrick Duffy (Dallas-