The Loma Pieta, CA earthquake occurred on this date at 5:04 p.m. I’d just begun two things I never do:
1. turn on the TV to watch baseball’s World Series, a crosstown rivalry event in the Bay Area, and
2. mount my exercise bicycle. I was home from work, alone, because Larry was away, working in the Bay Area.
Due to the sports coverage of the 1989 World Series, it became the first major earthquake in the United States that was broadcast live on national television. Rush-hour traffic on the Bay Area freeways was lighter than normal because the game was about to begin, and this may have prevented a larger loss of life, as several of the Bay Area’s major transportation structures suffered catastrophic failures. Thank God.
Still, the knowledge was catastrophic for me. I knew my husband was in the area, though not exactly where. What good would it do for me to know his itinerary…he was gone and unable to solve problems at home. I was self-reliant, a good salesman’s wife. My friends were crazed on my behalf during this time of my life, but I typically was not. This was a pre-cell phone era, so contact wasn’t constant. I trusted that he would phone me at the end of his work day, after the obligatory client dinner, on the company tab.
The event was catastrophic for my husband, in a sales meeting with Apple Computer, near the epicenter. His description of the shimmy-shakes frightened me as he recounted them later. The meeting was over, immediately, of course, and Larry ran to his rental car to head for the Palo Alto Hilton. The brief distance of 10 miles took hours. All of the traffic lights failed in the general power outage and pandemonium reigned. There was no GPS to provide alternate routes in case of accidents or other calamities. Thank goodness, he is the focused, courageous, careful type: Going Home.
When he arrived at the Hilton, many windows were broken, all power off, including the phone in his room, so he couldn’t call me. Because of the hazards of street travel, he walked and walked and walked, testing pay phones until he found an ATT phone that worked:
1. he called me to assure me of his safety. It couldn’t be a long call (see next line item), but it didn’t need to be more than a moment of reassurance, a murmur of love.
2. he called his travel agent, who was still at work at 9:00 p.m., and booked the next flight out of SFO to John Wayne Airport. After a harrowing overnight stay in the chilly Hilton, he arrived home at around noon the next day.
And, miracle of miracles, as per already-made plans, I’d booked a limo to navigate LA traffic and preclude need to park, clogged amidst the throngs to attend Rolling Stones concert at the Coluseum. A drive that would have drained the good vibes. His favorite band to celebrate his survival and to dance out the angst! “Start Me Up!”
And, we remained loyal to ATT, the company which enabled “Phone home.”