In 1989, I was living in the Bay Area and experienced the Loma Prieta earthquake. Among all the things that happened, I still remember a few very clearly. I was at work, in a two story building in Cupertino. During the quake, all the doors slammed shut, leaving us in the dark. But we were lucky because one of our team members was a former Marine. Even before the building stopped shaking, Bob opened an exit door which let in light, and with his calm command voice, guided us to the exit.
I remember a typical Silicon Valley guy in a suit directing traffic at a busy intersection that had no working light. I remember drinking wine with a friend in my dark house, waiting for the phone to work so we could call family and friends. I remember feeling very lucky that I wasn’t up a ladder or on a bridge or in a computer room during the quake.
Weeks afterward, I joked with friends about the worst place to be during a quake — up a ladder, on a bridge or in a computer room.
Then I could not clearly remember details of things that happened in the few weeks before the earthquake. My boss asked me about a project, and I just shrugged because I finished it before the quake and couldn’t remember. It became a point of change, like a curtain had dropped that forced me to look ahead instead of back.
Mark ran the 2013 Boston Marathon. He finished about an hour before the explosions, so we were safe and sound and together. But we were close enough to feel the boom that rattled our windows. We witnessed the panic from our sixth floor condo — smoke, people running away from the finish, cops and soldiers tearing down the barricades that lined both sides of Bolyston, white suited medical personnel running out of the medical tent toward the explosions, pushing stretchers and wheelchairs. After a few minutes, the local TV stations started reporting from the finish line — reporting carnage and shrapnel and panic and heroic actions. We saw 4500 exhausted runners stopped along the marathon route, wondering why they couldn’t complete their goals — to cross the finish line, arms raised in a personal victory. We heard about hotels evacuating and runners’ families desperate to find their marathoners.
We were safe and sound and together in an overheated apartment, above the fray, but still shocked. Dartmouth, our street, was blocked off on both ends and guarded by armed police. When we ventured out the next morning, we specifically asked if we could get back to the apartment — only if you have ID was the answer. About half the shops and restaurants along Newbury were closed on Tuesday. The restaurant we went to that evening served us but then didn’t charge us for the meal. Crowds gathered at the barricades, looking towards Bolyston for a glimpse of the CSI in their white coats and hoods and booties.
We are home now. Safe and sound and together. It was not the vacation we planned. But we’re not complaining; we feel very lucky. I’m trying to remember what projects I was working on before the explosions, but like after the earthquake, I’m having trouble with the details.