Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Earthquake Memories

Today marks the centennial anniversary of the Great San Francisco Earthquake. It was 100 years ago today that the 7.8-magnitude earthquake devastated the city. Dozens of buildings were immediately leveled, and most of those that remained were consumed by the fire that lasted for days afterward. When the smoke cleared, more than 3,000 people had died.


The original San Francisco City Hall as it appeared in the aftermath of the 1906 quake.

With all this talk of the Great Quake of 1906, it brought back memories of the 7.1-magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake, which struck on October 17, 1989, causing damage throughout San Francisco and the Bay Area. Though the damage caused by Loma Prieta wasn't anywhere close to the 1906 damage, it was nonetheless significant.


Scenes from the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 include the fallen section of the Bay Bridge (left) and the collapsed Cypress Viaduct (right). (10/89)

Perhaps the most vivid images from that quake were the collapsed section of the Bay Bridge and the Cypress Viaduct in Oakland. Yet what most people don't realize was that the earthquake was also responsible for the destruction of my college home: Verducci Hall ... albeit nine years later.

At the time of the '89 quake, I was a student at San Francisco State University. That afternoon I was walking from the main section of campus to Verducci Hall, the 15-story dorm building where I had been living for more than two years. As I was walking, I felt the sensation of something lifting the ground from underneath me and then dropping it again. I had to brace myself against the building next to me for support.


Verducci Hall is seen here in this undated photo.

I made it back to my dorm just as they were evacuating it. I, along with hundreds of other students, sat outside for hours, wondering when Verducci Hall would be cleared for re-entry. As it turned out, the building had suffered extensive damage, and we weren't allowed back into the building for more than two weeks!

Verducci Hall in its heyday. (1976 or 1977)
Verducci Hall in its heyday. (1976 or 1977)

The people who managed the dorms instated this crazy three-to-a-room policy until Verducci Hall could be made habitable again. It involved placing Verducci Hall residents in cots located in the other dorm buildings that weren't damaged ... cramming three people in rooms designed for two.

Fortunately I had relatives in nearby Daly City and Pacifica who for the next two weeks provided housing for me, and three of my friends to boot (thanks Padrinos and Tia Elvira!).


A picture from the 1999 implosion of Verducci Hall. (03/28/99)

As for Verducci Hall, the story wasn't so good. After the school year ended in the Spring of 1990, they shut down Verducci Hall for good. More than nine years later, San Francisco State University imploded the building. (Click here to see SFSU's page on the Verducci Hall implosion.) To this day, nothing stands in that spot other than tennis courts. But I do have many fond memories of that place.


This is what the former site of Verducci Hall looks like today.

1 comment:

Butterfly Queen said...

I, too, was in that quake. I remember the ground felt like a wave to be surfed. It was a rolling quake by the time it hit us in Livermore. People who have never been in quakes don't understand that they aren't all shaking and thunderous. Our neighbor's truck was moving around and my mom lost a lot of family heirlooms when things crashed to the ground. My dad, who worked in SF and San Leandro a lot, was stranded for quite a while trying to get home. It was scary.