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I'll Never Forget That Day...

I was in the stockroom of a Safeway Store in Santa Clara, CA; employed as a loss prevention agent for an employer headquarted in a high rise in Oakland, CA.  I was on the phone talking to my employer who was on the 10th floor of his office in Oakland watching the snarled up commute traffic that was heavier than usual that day because this was also the opening day of the World Series between our two major league bay area teams, the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A's.  Suddenly without warning I heard my employer say, "Do you feel that?" and I responded, "feel what?"  I thought his question peculiar because he was in Oakland and I was in Santa Clara, an approximate 45 mile distance between the two cities; then I heard my employer say, "Jesus,...Jesus Christ!" the phone went dead...what he had just witnessed was the Oakland Cypress Structure's top level come crushing down on the commuter cars below.

Then suddenly and without warning, I felt the earth beneath me begin to shake.  Stacked products, ten to twelve feet high, in the stockroom began to come crashing down.  The doorway to a large ice-box, in which I was standing, began to buckle and its hinge bolts sheared off.  The concrete floor below me opened up, a crack five to six wide began to take form.  Then the stockroom floor began to roll like a throw-carpet being shook out.  Without warning I was knocked from my feet and thrown a distance of fifteen to twenty feet atop products that had already fallen to the floor.  The telephone receiver was still clutched in my right hand, its phone line torn away.  A pallet of canned products fell on top of me as the ground continued to shake and roll...the fifteen to forty-five second ordeal felt like an eternity.  The ground eventually calmed itself...for the moment.  

I slowly got to my feet, my injuries were minimal.  I jumped over the wide crack in the stockroom floor and proceeded to the store front to see if others were injured or not.  I knew that this had been an earthquake, but none like I had ever experienced in all my days living in the bay area at that time. 

As I walked out to the front of the store, every single merchandise isle had been destroyed, customer's where on the ground, products, broken glass, spilled liquids, overturned grocery carts, everywhere. 

Cars in the parking lot had smashed into one another, car alarms were sounding everywhere.  Aside from the sounds of the car alarms, things were eerily quiet.  No birds in the air; no squirrels visible in the trees that surrounded the store.  Amazingly, not one single customer or employee of the store was physically injured. 

Five minutes into the aftermath came the sounds of sirens all over the city and the San Jose metropolitan area.  They would continue throughout the night and into the early morning hours of the next day.  Most phone calls in and out of the bay area were disrupted because the damage to the communication infrastructure. Cell phones back then existed primarily for doctors and lawyers and landlines were the main source of communication.  Emails and the advent of the internet were still several years away.  

After clearing the store and documenting the incident, I headed home, normally a twenty minute drive, that night, nearly three hours. 

My boss, who lived next door to me at the time, would arrive home much later than I.  He described the horrible aftermath in Oakland and the swaying to and fro of the high-rise he was in.  We were both tired and hungry and our refrigerators were barren, typical bachelor's.  I found a payphone nearby that surprisingly had dial tone and at one a.m. in the morning, I called Domino's Pizza, to my amazement and joy, they were open and taking delivery orders.  Our day, our ordeal, ended on a pepperoni pizza and a liter of soda.  What a ride; I'll Never Forget That Day...