EARTHQUAKE, Feel The Pulse!

At 5:04pm, October 17, 1989, I was in my room on the second floor at One Lombard Street when the words in my hand: “Feel the pulse of the City by the Bay”, described the shaking under my feet! It was a 6.9 magni­tude EARTHQUAKE!
Growing up in Cali­fornia, the rule that I was taught was to stand in a doorway. My room with windows to the street had an exit only through sliding glass doors.
I had been working on a Vicom Asso­ciates assign­ment that was an invi­ta­tion for the AAD “Recep­tion for Resi­dents” hosted by Syntex. (Syntex Corpo­ra­tion was respon­sible intro­ducing oral contra­cep­tives and anti-inflammatory drugs.)
I had used markers for my layout, but then I thought to see how it could be accom­plished on the Apple that we had at home. At that time, large pixe­lated art would be the result. I was surprised when the agency went for the idea – as it would show only what was possible at that time!
Being left-handed and uncom­fort­able grip­ping a square mouse with the long tail, I attempted to develop some “computer chops”. The mouse was attached to the right of the keyboard so I even tried using my right hand. Either way I was pretty clumsy. My first attempt shows the general elements. Then I devel­oped each section of the illus­tra­tion. The computer gave me the oppor­tu­nity to piece these sections into the one full image. Back at the agency, a nega­tive was made. I was returning to my room with the photo­stat, when the earth­quake hit. You can see that the photo­stat is wrin­kled, where I clutched it as I stood within the frame of the open sliding glass doors.

The elec­tricity in the agency was off. Only some outside phones (land­lines) were working. The rooms that had these phones were without windows so you had to light a match to see the keypad of the phone. There was the smell of gas outside in the streets, but only faint in the agency. My calls were to my home and family and then to my aunt who lived out in the “Avenues”, the Sunset district. The next calls were to my friends that our after-work “Birthday Get-together” was off. Almost everyone had left the building. (There was a young single guy in the agency, (telling this later) who found himself stuck as a refrig­er­ator momen­tarily pinned him against a side wall. There was another employee in the kitchen at that time and he said that he thought: “Here I am and the last face I see, will be hers”!)
There is much to read of the destruc­tion in various parts of San Fran­cisco. My route, if I had gone home, would have been past the fire and smoke in the Marina district.

Heading out to stay with my aunt, I got my car from the rooftop parking, then down three levels and south to the Broadway tunnel. “Strange” I thought, “no traffic in the tunnel (?!)”. This was not a smart choice, but after­shocks were yet to happen. I stayed overnight with my 74-year-old aunt. The next morning, after listening to the news of the exten­sive damage with on-going rescues, we decided to (of all things) leave her place and visit the earth­quake exhibit at what was then the Stein­hart Plan­e­tarium in Golden Gate Park. As we stepped up on the plat­form that repli­cated the shaking of a strong tremor– the next in line was a young father telling his little boy: ”Don’t be afraid, see those two old ladies can do it!”

When I was back in the agency, thinking that the word, “pulse” (“earth­quake”) might scare off the invited, I asked if the title of the invi­ta­tion should be changed. Again, I was surprised by their deci­sion– “Go with it, as is”.

Ann Thompson