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