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In Their Own Words: Memories Linger 31 Years After Loma Prieta Earthquake Rocked The Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- It lasted for less than a minute, as short as 15 seconds in some Bay Area neighborhoods, but the memories of the deadly and destructive 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake still linger.

The quake claimed 63 lives, injured nearly 4,000 and caused widespread damage. It also altered the Bay Area landscape forever. Gone was the Cypress Structure on Highway 880 on Oakland, the Embarcadero and a portion of the Central Freeway.

We asked KPIX 5 viewers for their memories of that fateful day on our Facebook and social media pages .

Patrick Gonzales was a toddler living with his family in El Cerrito.

"Was 5....bottom floor of a 4 plex in El Cerrito, remember heading towards the door, lookin back at my mother to say...something...slight shake nothing new, then...I have a snippet of her grasping the doorway in the kitchen and I just hit the floor," he posted. "Dad just off work taking the bus the city to Alameda. Said he "didn't feel a thing" & "I was wondering what everyone was doing outside ????" ????????????."

Elizabeth Kershner was in class.

"I remember a professor shouting, "Run for your lives!" as everyone came out of the building," she posted. "And then I remember hearing on the radio news that "The Bay Bridge has collapsed." At first it sounded like the whole bridge had been destroyed."

Christine Ravetti Ravely was at work when the building began to shake.

"Oh, I do remember that day very well," she posted: "Working at Franklin Resources in Foster City, the new building. The 8th floor execs were at the World Series and a good thing, as the water pipes broke up there! Took about 2 hours to get home using El Camino as 280 was packed. Wow."

Michele Dimond was going to class at USF School of Nursing.

"At first, I thought a little trembler, no big deal but about 5 sec after that a huge jolt and the ground felt like water...watching it move through and under your feet was a trip," she posted. "Then silence, the city just went silent, oddest experience."

Maggie Layton was driving home from work.

"I thought I had 4 flat tires when I realized everything was moving," she posted. "Instead of taking 1/2 hour to get home it took me an hour and 1/2. Luckily I was able to stop by my old company so I could call home and let them know I was OK ????"

Kevin Allred was a youngster, excited to be at the World Series game with his family.

"Ironically enough I was only nine years old and was a kid back then," he posted. "My parents and myself were in San Fran at Candlestick in the car. I was trying to get out of the car then a big jolt hit like someone bumped me from behind. I first it was my brother Keith but my father said "we had an earthquake" and I panicked. It was scary."

Becky Gardner Kutler Schlueter was also about to leave work.

"Just about ready to leave the office for the day in San Bruno," she posted. "It took a few seconds to realize what was happening and then evacuated the building as soon as it stopped shaking. I remember seeing the windows of the much taller building across the street bowing in and out. I was relatively new to the Bay Area and didn't yet know even where the Cypress Structure was but could not believe the devastation I was finally able to see on TV. Not too many years later I was driving regularly on 880 and crossing the Bay Bridge and often thought about what I'd do if another big one hit

Pat Leal lived at the time in the East Bay. She huddled with her husband and little granddaughter, hoping the shaking would stop.

"Lived in San Leandro and had just got home from work," she posted. "My husband my little granddaughter Jacque and I just stood still and I kept saying 'Oh my God' over and over until it stopped. No power for hours. No damaged to our house."


Lesli Fullerton-Pacis was a student at San Francisco State.

"Had just stepped out of the psych building heading across the street to catch the M," she said. "Being outside on a loud corner, I felt the earthquake, but not as much as if I'd been inside. My first clue that it was serious was when the Muni stopped moving. I still didn't know how bad it was until after I had walked from SFSU to my home in Diamond Heights and my mother told me."

Scott Kinkel endured a few moments of embarrassment during his hurried escape into the street.

"I was in the shower on the 2nd floor of my house built on the top of a foothill," he posted. "The house was shaking like crazy, the shower doors were banging together loudly and it felt like the whole house was going to slide down the hill. So, I grabbed the nearest thing to put on, my wife's pink robe (no kidding) and ran out into the street.":

"It was still shaking and the water was splashing a couple feet above the community pool across the street," he added. "When it was all over, Yep, that was me, the wet guy in a too small pink robe in the middle of the street."

Lorene La Centra-Templeton posted that fate saved her from the destruction on the Cypress Structure.

"I was suppose to be on the Cypress that night," she posted. "I got off work about 4:15 in south Hayward and was headed to Albany (a friends house for dinner) but got a call to go to a CPR class in Pleasanton instead ...I needed that class on my resume as I was finishing up pharmacy school so I didn't end up going on the Cypress freeway. I believe I would've been very close by it or on it had I went to Albany that night."

Larry Pasion was studying inside the Fremont Main Library.

"(I was) studying before the World Series on the top floor next to the window at the then new Fremont Main Library," he posted. "Felt the initial shake & didn't think anything of it. Then the next few seconds after, everyone took cover. I went under the table and once the shaking stop I got up to look outside only to feel the whole library sway side to side. The library was built on rollers. Didn't realize the effect or the size of the earthquake until I notice the double decker bridge in Oakland had collapsed....still remember it to this day."

Candi Nissim was at a BBQ she will never forget and the friend she lost on that day.

"BBQing burgers to watch the World Series with our neighbors in Concord." she posted. "My husband had left work in the City early and was already home (thank goodness). The earthquake hit and when things quieted down we watched in horror the damage it had cause. We watch the rescue efforts in the City of a home collapsed and on fire. It was a dear friend of ours who was trapped in that home and who died in it. There is no words for the anguish and helplessness we felt."

"We forgot about the burgers on the BBQ, forgot about food completely, later around 10:30pm our neighbor checked his grill the burgers had cooked down to round burnt nuggets, to be remember to this day as the earthquake burgers. The earthquake will forever be remembered for all the lives lost and the heroic actions, but also sadly the Anniversary of the lost of a very dear friend."

Dee.Es.Malo remember the fear that gripped her 8-year-old body.

"Running downstairs in our town house in Newark," she posted on the KPIX 5 Instagram page. "I was bouncing of the walls all the way down! Dad was coming home off the Dumbarton. It took hours for him to get home. Never been more scared in my 8-year-old life."

Taylor tweeted on the Twitter Page that a large wave came out of the family pool.

"I was at home in Santa Clara, and watched a wave of pool water come up above the seven foot fence," he tweeted. "And somehow the sandwich I was eating got thrown across the room."

Kaji tweeted about the terrifying moments in the kitchen.

"I was cooking in the kitchen," Kaji tweeted. "The cabinet doors were opened by shake, all of dishes slided down and crushed one by one on the floor. All of furniture were dancing, A big TV jumped down on the floor. I couldn't forget the day in San Francisco. I was lucky that I could survive it."


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