Thursday, October 17, 2019

Two Anniversaries

(I first wrote this post for the blog in 2005. This is the third time I've posted it. The story never changes!)

October 17, 1989 dawned as one of those clear-sky, lazy autumn days. So beautiful it begged to be filled with hiking, playing, and exploring. I was working as a teaching assistant for Anthro 1 Physical Anthropology at UC Santa Cruz, a course being taught by Adrienne Zihlman. Luckily, the lectures were MWF, and the labs I taught were on Thursdays, so I had this stunning Tuesday to share with Roger.

We started the day by heading to a restaurant out on Highway 9 in Ben Lomond or Felton. It was reputed to make great, hearty breakfasts, and we went to eat something rich and filling. The plan was to leave there, drive up Zayante Road beyond Lompico (way out in the boonies, for those not familiar with the Santa Cruz mountains), and explore the Loch Lomond Reservoir.

All was going well until we reached the gate to the reservoir. Big chains and locks. Big sign saying it was closed due to the drought. We hadn't known, and here we were all ready for a good hike. So, rather than be deterred by gates and signs, we parked the car, next to the NO PARKING sign, climbed over the chain, and walked down to the reservoir.

Oh it was a perfect day-- trees, bugs, birds, and water. Although I can hardly remember a single detail of the things we saw, I do remember that Roger and I looked a lot at each other. We had only been together ten months, living together, and still getting to know each other. That was part of the beauty of the day.

We hiked for hours and hours. Stopped and listened. Held hands. What fun until we heard thrashing and heavy footsteps coming right for us. Sure enough, the park ranger had found us and busted us for being in the closed park, and for parking the car where it expressly said not to. The ranger asked, "Is that your car at the gate, the one with the other parking ticket on the front dash?" Oops. Yes. That was my car with the ticket I had gotten about a week before. I must have seemed like such a little outlaw to him. But lucky for us, he was absolutely cool. He told us he wasn't going to give us a ticket, since I already had one (isn't that amazing?). He hardly ever had people to talk to anymore with the park closed to visitors; so, he offered us a ride back up the hill, about a mile, to our car. We talked on the bumpy ride back. He was quite a pleasant guy. We thanked him, bid him farewell, jumped into our car and headed home.

It took us about a half hour to reach the family beach house in Capitola. It was a bit after 5:00 when we stepped inside and walked upstairs to our little two room garret. Roger turned on the World Series, and I sat down to think about dinner.

Seismogram showing the main shock of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

That's when the house started to shake. SHAKE. One of the biggest earthquakes to hit California in years was rocking that house for all it was worth. Oh My God, that house shook. Things started to fall, I crawled across the floor to be next to Roger. He was holding back the TV and the vcr from falling to the floor. The 5 gallon Sparklett's water bottle tipped over. Water was spilling everywhere. Our bookcase slid sideways. I could hear things falling and crashing in different parts of the house. I thought I heard the toilet flush by itself. There was an ongoing roar coming from everywhere the earth shook. I looked out the window to see what the birds were doing on the beach below. The gulls were circling, circling. Dust was rising from the sand where bits of cliff had already fallen. Fifteen seconds. That was all. Fifteen seconds, and the shaking stopped.
Earthquake damaged homes in San Francisco.
We looked at each other and confirmed that we were both alright. We checked for damage around the house. A couple of small broken teacups. A few new cracks in the stone fireplace downstairs. The brick chimney that vented the water heater had fallen into pieces, bounced off the street and up onto my new car. Minor damage all. That was not true for the rest of Santa Cruz or our neighbors. Fallen fireplace chimneys were everywhere. Glass from broken windows littered the streets. We turned off the gas at the main shut-off valve outside, and went to sit in the car to listen to radio reports of the damage. Learned that the epicenter of the quake was located 70 miles south of San Francisco. That's exactly where we were. They announced the Bay Bridge had collapsed. Other roadways had crashed onto lower roads. People were crushed and trapped in their cars. Buildings were on fire in San Francisco. Much later we learned that the damage in downtown Santa Cruz was extensive. Some of our favorite places-- the bookstore, the bagelry--simply ceased to exist.
Downtown Santa Cruz earthquake damage.
We spent that night at our friends' house. Fifteen of us slept together on the living room floor. There were significant aftershocks all night. We held tight. The earth continued to shake sporadically for days. Slowly we emerged from the shock. Electricity was restored. Streets were swept clean. For months we could bike ride on roadways that had become impassable for cars. Life resumed, and yet it was changed forever.

Roger's family beach house backyard.
Three years later, on October 17, 1992, Roger and I commemorated the quake anniversary in our own way. We had been talking about getting married and had even gone ahead and gotten Marriage License. We woke on that Saturday morning, and said, "Hey, let's get married today." We called a justice of the peace who said he was available at 10:00 that morning. We called my twin brother and sister-in-law to ask if they would be our witnesses. In a matter of about two hours the ceremony was planned and executed. We stood barefoot in the yard above Monterey Bay, where the gulls circled and called. It was as simple a ceremony as you can imagine. We confirmed and committed to each other what we knew was already in our hearts. Afterwards, we celebrated by going to our favorite restaurant for breakfast. Later we walked into town and told the local video store guy that we had just gotten married. He gave us a free video rental for a wedding present. And it's been a charmed life ever since!
Actual wedding day photo of the barefoot bride and groom!
Tonight we will raise our wine glasses at 5:04 and drink to the memory of day that began beautifully, but ended in sorrow; and then to a day that began simply with a marriage that's led us here.

A gallery of Loma Prieta earthquake photos can be found here.

Postscript: We never had a chance to thank that park ranger. Had he not driven us to our car we would have been in the Santa Cruz mountains when the quake struck. No telling when we would have made it out of the hills that day.

36 comments:

  1. Have a very happy anniversary. To those of us who live away from earthquake zones it's difficult to imagine what it must be like (or indeed why anyone would live there!).

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    1. John-- Thank you! These fault lines and subduction zones make for some beautiful landscapes.

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  2. Roger you look like my old mate Joe in that phot. Congraulations the pair of you. Glad I was not in the earthquake though I have been through a couple of earth tremmors in Japan

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    1. Billy-- Earthquakes are interesting things, giving us a perspective of how powerful our earth really is.

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  3. Wow! 30 years ago and 27 years ago. Even though I've read this before, reading about the days when you and roger were getting to know each other and then looking at your wedding day picture is a source of joy for me. Happy Anniversary!

    Reading about the earthquake makes me teary. It was devastating to learn of the earthquake when I arrived in Bandon, Oregon, where I had, uncharacteristically, planned to stay overnight on my way to the S.F. peninsula instead of driving straight through. At 5:04, I would have been on the Bay Bridge. I stayed up late watching the news in my motel room, deeply shaken by the footage of San Francisco enveloped in darkness, flooded with memories of a place that seemed so solid in my mind as I was growing up.

    Thank goodness for the park ranger! I wonder if he thinks of you and roger every year on October 17. He must have seen that you and roger were in love and been moved by that.

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    1. am-- I'm so glad you made the choice to stay in Bandon instead of driving all the way to SF. Thank you for your kind good wishes.

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  4. Thanks for sharing this again, as I missed reading it before. So happy for you all and all you've had together.

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    1. Barbara-- I'm glad that I posted it so some readers who have seen it before could get a look.

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  5. Of course I have to comment. Thanks for your post again. When the quake hit I was sitting on a ditch bank on a small rise in the hills southwest of Eugene, Oregon. I was digging that ditch and had just taken a break. The property owner had just closed her shop door when I felt the bump. I knew she could not have caused it, but there was no doubt that something had gone bump. A couple of hours later, driving down the hill back to town, I heard the news on the car radio.
    We recently lived in Santa Clara before we were shipped to Texas. Santa Cruz was our favorite weekend go to. I miss it all still. Do you know Gizdich Ranch? I have friends in Watsonville.

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    1. I love Gizdich. Both as a child with my parents, and as a parent with my child, we would pick berries every year and put up jam -- lots of it. I love the entire area, and miss it too.

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    2. TJ-- So interesting that you felt a bump in Eugene. It was quite a shake. I've never been to Gizdich Ranch, but when I googled it, I see that Roger and I have driven past it so many times. So nice of you to stop by. Thank you so much for commenting.

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  6. I am raising my glass of freshly made grape juice to you. Health and happiness!

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    1. Sabine-- Thank you for your kind words. Cheers!

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  7. I'm sure that's a say you will never forget. I now remember that earthquake. I've never experienced an earthquake . You had the wedding that I would have liked.

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    1. Red-- It's one of those moments that's truly unforgettable. I have been thinking lately that I've been married twice, but never really had a "wedding." I like small rituals.

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  8. I remember your stories well. And still, I enjoy reading this post each time, anew! Happy Anniversary to you and your love.

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    1. Tara-- It was quite a day, wasn't it. Unforgettable. We loved getting married on the anniversary of that day.

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  9. Happy anniversary, and what a story!! I remember that earthquake quite well.

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    1. Sharon-- Thank you for your kind words. Yes, it was quite an earthquake, unforgettable.

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  10. Happy anniversary from me and Leah, and many more to come!

    Having your anniversary on the same date as the earthquake makes it easy to remember both dates. I can remember the Mt St Helens eruption date because it was on my 30th birthday.

    The worst earthquake I ever experienced was very mild. It woke me up just before the P wave hit.Then the S wave hit and the room swayed like a boat in a mildly choppy sea. It was just strong enough to give a taste of what an earthquake would be. It's hard to imagine experiencing one like yours.

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    1. Mark-- Thank you and Leah for your kind good wishes. Interesting that you should mention Mt St Helens, my first husband and I were in Eugene Oregon for that blast. We didn't know anything about it until we went outside and found our car literally covered in ash. We were 125 miles south of the volcano. I love the earth's activity. It reminds me of our smallness. Where were you when you felt that earthquake?

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    2. I mean to answer this much earlier. I was at my mother's house in Rome when the earthquake hit. It was a 4.9 magnitude. It hit in the very early morning. The P wave woke me up immediately. It was a fairly hard "thump". Then the S wave hit and the room swayed for a couple of seconds. Experiencing the two waves so distinctly was really interesting.

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  11. Just another couple of days in California, eh? I have a friend who was working for KCBS Radio as the Contra Costa County bureau chief when that earthquake hit. She was in her office on an upper floor of some building and dived under her desk until the shaking stopped. She later reported on the Bay Bridge collapse and much more.

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    1. Catalyst-- It was quite a shake. Your friend was smart to dive under the desk. The old advice of standing in a doorway doesn't do it anymore. Get under something safe is the way to go.

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  12. Happy Anniversary - love your wedding photo! I'm thinking you were probably lucky to have been out of the mountains before the quake. Not the safest place to be around rocks and trees during a quake.

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    1. bev-- Thank you so you much for your kind words. We were glad to have been at the beach house when the quake started shaking. Truly unforgettable.

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  13. Happy anniversary, you two barefoot beauties. And blessings on that park ranger's head. I believe he was meant to save you.

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    1. 37paddington-- Thank you for your kind words. We will always be grateful that our paths crossed with that park ranger.

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  14. Such an interesting story. You were so very fortunate and it is fitting that you honored the date by getting married. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, you two.

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    1. NCmountainwoman-- Thank you for your kind good wishes. It was quite a time!

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  15. Great story! I just glanced up at the un-fastened bookcase next to the head of the bed. Love the pic. Is it me, or does Roger look a little like Jeff Goldblum? ;-)

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    1. Phil-- Oh wow, fasten that bookcase. You are on a big faultline too. Yikes! I've never thought of Jeff Goldblum when I look at Roger. Mmmm. I'll have to think about that.

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  16. Don't know where my comment went but I am pretty sure I tried. This age thing:)) I loved the picture of your wedding day and wanted to wish you Happy Anniversary. So glad you could change a date that held fear for so many into one with hope and love.

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    1. Patti-- I had a similar experience on a friend's blog with a comment I left disappearing. Interesting. Thank you for your good wishes.

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  17. That was certainly an experience and thankfully we have never lived in a state prone to earthquakes. Belated happy anniversary wishesšŸ’to you both.

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    1. Beatrice-- Earthquakes are really interesting, makes us realize how very small we really are. Thank you for your good wishes.

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