Earthquakes are no fun, period

Published 10:51 am Saturday, January 16, 2010

It began as a typical day in my South San Jose, Calif., neighborhood.

I was 13 and in eighth grade.

My school let out at 3:54 p.m. — kind of late for a school to be getting out I always thought —but we also didn’t go in until nearly 9 a.m.

I lived two blocks away and on most days could be home — in front of the television, grabbing a snack or digging into homework — by 4:05 p.m.

Oct. 17, 1989 was no different, except for by 5 p.m., I was riding my bike out front with the neighbor kids humming the theme song to “The A Team.”

At 5:04 p.m., the normal day turned anything but normal.

The ground shook with force and a loud rumble, very loud, came with it. Towering light posts — ones that usually don’t move even if hit by a car — swayed like palm trees.

“It’s the big one,” I thought.

It may not have been “THE” big one, but that earthquake registered 7.0.

When it was over about a dozen seconds later — although it seemed like years — everyone hurried back inside.

My parents came home from work shortly after and asked if I was OK.

I was fine, but very, very scared; aftershocks led to sleepless nights.

Earthquakes are bad news.

They are unpredictable, can be very frightening and can lead to devastation and death.

The 1989 quake was about the same magnitude as the quake that struck Haiti this past week.

Obviously location matters because the end result of these two tragedies was much different.

In 1989, 63 people were killed and 3,757 were injured.

It Haiti, the death toll is estimated at 50,000 as of Saturday.

Earthquakes just may be the worst of disasters because they are unpredictable. Once they get started, you don’t know how big they will be and how long they will last. I can still vividly remember that loud rumble sound 20 years later.

Some people go their whole lives without experiencing an earthquake.

They are the lucky ones.