The following is a guest post by my friend Bill who had first-hand experience with the devastating 1989 San Francisco earthquake.
My name is Bill, I’m now 70 years old and very thankful to have made it this far. Events in my life have left me, at times, feeling like I live on borrowed time. My kids talk once in a while about my travels taking me into harm’s way. Growing up and living on the west coast all my life have let me experience numerous quakes, tornados and real bad weather.
The worst was the 1989 San Francisco quake. To give you the real picture I need to start a few days prior to the “big one”. I drive a large semi-truck with a 48 foot refrigerated trailer. Not the easiest thing to move around the Bay Area with.
Two days before the event I was in the south bay in San Jose. Guys working on the loading dock mentioned how they had experienced several small quakes over the last two days. They advised me to stay off the bridges and overpasses and they gave me a couple of bottles of water just in case. I didn’t think too much about at that moment.
Loading complete I headed north to Sacramento for a delivery the next day. This route was north up I-880 through Oakland. Traffic was heavy and a usual slow time of the day. About 3:45 there was an earthquake that shook my truck enough that I had to take sharp action to stay in my lane.
I thought of the water given me and how little else I had to sustain me if this got worse. Continuing on I entered the lower deck of the Cypress Viaduct, a double deck freeway. I drove out of that section and it collapsed about 25 feet right behind me. The shaking of the freeway and my truck was tremendous. Coming to a stop I got out and ran down the overpass I was on but the shaking stopped after a several seconds.
My trailer was loaded with lettuce. A football size piece of concrete went through the back doors then through 22 pallets of lettuce and put a dent from the inside out in the front of the trailer. It also blew out 11 of my 18 tires, tore the right side mirror assembly off and various other damage to the underside of the truck. No one could go anywhere for a couple of hours so I spent the time talking with others.
A man below the bridge got my attention and asked if he could help us. I told him I was in need of a tow truck due to losing so many tires. He said he would be up to me shortly. An hour later here he came up the bridge in a commercial tire truck. He proceeded to mount up 11 used tires on my truck and allow me to continue to safety.
He absolutely would not accept any pay for his services or the tires. In return I went back to his tire shop and paid him to install 12 brand new tires on my truck and trailer. People really do care especially in an emergency. I bought tires from for 8 years after that, we became great friends. . I did get home early in the morning and my family was relieved. Cell service was out and they had no word on me. It was great to be home!
Looking back, I thought to myself what if I was there for all night or more. I had gathered what I had to drink and eat which was very little. No real emergency supplies whatsoever. Something I promised myself would not happen again.
Before I left the next day for delivery I bought items and put together a preparedness pack for future use. Never went anywhere without checking it first. My wife took my lead and created a pack for our home. Today you can purchase a much better Earthquake Kit for your family, cars and office. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Get prepared! This can happen to you.
Special thanks to Bill for sharing his incredible story and showing that there is still faith in humanity as people do help each other in times of crisis.
Luckily Bill got out without being trapped or harmed but had he been stuck overnight without an earthquake kit he would have been in trouble. Make sure you are prepared both in your home and even in the car as this shows that an earthquake can strike at anytime no matter where you are.