Friday, October 16, 2009

Tuesdays in October--Look Out!

It was 5:04 p.m. on Tuesday, October 17, 1989. This writer had just finished her shift, and she was preparing to leave the old Central Library. I don't need to tell you what happened next. The Loma Prieta earthquake struck at 5:04 p.m., but I soon made it home to Kearney Avenue. We gathered in our front yards and cheered as neighbors and family arrived home safely, one by one. We listened to our car radios, which were our links to other Bay Area cities and neighborhoods. Finally, when everyone was cold and hungry, we all went back inside our homes, which were suddenly dark and unfamiliar places. We made our way past fallen cereal boxes and kitchenware and began searching for flashlights. I actually received three incoming phone calls that night. The first was from a friend in Southern California. The second and third were from Beth Svee, the former Santa Clara City Librarian. Ms. Svee had reported to the City's emergency command center, along with other key City executives. She was calling to place me on alert. She asked me to stand by, and to be ready to report to an emergency location. Fortunately, she called back later in the evening and cancelled the alert. However, here was one member of my family who was not frightened by that 7.1 magnitude earthquake. My son was practicing football on the Wilcox High School field, and he did not even feel the ground shaking.

Those of us who reported back to work at the Library the following day will remember Ms. Svee's leadership that morning and in the days that followed. She brought us all together, spoke to us and assigned us to various tasks as we all worked to get the books off the floor. On the morning following Loma Prieta, I was sent to the Mission Library, where, surprisingly, very few books had fallen. Ms. Svee made several trips to Mission that day, as telephones were not working. By the next day, the Bookmobile was on the road again. As we visited our regular sites in the community, we saw damage that was never reported by the news media, and heard many firsthand accounts of our Bookmobile patrons' earthquake experiences.

Fast-forward to another Tuesday in another October. It was 8:04 p.m. on Tuesday, October 30, 2007. Performer Megumi had just finished her "spooky stories" program in the Redwood Room. This writer was helping Megumi load her materials into her car. Megumi and I didn't feel anything, but we heard some loud noises. When I returned to the Library, I was confused as our pages began asking, "That was a big one! Did you feel that?" Yes, there had been another earthquake. In a few seconds I was answering another phone call from another City Librarian. This time, the lady giving instructions to close the Library was Karen Saunders, the City Librarian who retired last summer. As we left the Library, we were all thankful that no damage had been incurred in the earthquake, which was described as "moderate," with a 5.6 magnitude.

Watch out for Tuesdays in October!
posted by jtb