I can’t imagine what all of those who lost their homes and power and power to do things we all take for granted are going through.
Well, maybe I can just a little.
Way back in 1989, I lost my small studio apartment and was displaced by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
With an earthquake, there is no warning, unlike a hurricane. I can’t decide if that’s good or not: worrying and preparing in anticipation of a disaster you can’t control, or not knowing it’s coming and doing the best you can.
At 5:04 on an unseasonably warm San Francisco day, I was washing my hands in the restroom at Chiat/Day, about to dash out to Pat O’Shea’s to watch the Giants and A’s play in the World Series. The mirror began to move and the bathroom stall doors swung wildly. Multiple cries of “Earthquake” filled the now dusty air, as we all raced down six flights of stairs onto Maiden Lane, scared witless. The combination of the stale stagnant air, crumbling old buildings, fire smoke and the sinking sun created a “Soylent Green” effect over the entire city. It was eerie.
In those prehistoric days, computers were new (I was constantly shoving my “Macintosh” to the back of my desk so I could write long-hand instead of relying on “word,”) and there were no cell-phones. In order to contact anyone, you had to find a way to get to a home/office that still had power (there were few.) Getting anywhere was impossible, other than on foot. I spent 3 days in the same San Francisco Giant’s men’s Bermuda shorts, tank top and cowboy boot shoes. Attractive, I know.
Days after the Earthquake and many aftershocks later, I was told to report to the Marina Middle School to find out the fate of my building: Green tag (can go home immediately), yellow tag (limited access, but future looked promising) or red tag (slated for demolition, no more home.) There were thousands of people just like me praying for the green.
I got red.
Us red-taggers were assigned an engineer and given 15 minutes and only one friend to go in and pull out whatever we could of our belongings. And that would be that.
I chose my dear and very strong friend Desiree to go in with me, instructing her to go for the shoes, and then clothes, as her first priorities. Because I was on the second floor and the stairs had collapsed, we tossed everything out of the window to our friend Daryl who loaded items into a shopping cart. Someone across the country saw footage of my giant shoe racks flying through the air, caught by a news camera. I went straight for my yearbooks, photos, records (as in vinyl) and TV.
Another friend, Ray, took me around on his scooter to find a new place to live. I made no money so my options were slim. I also had no furniture, so I needed a place that was carpeted so I could sleep on the floor, not knowing when I’d be able to afford a bed. Cynthia and Steve let me stay at their place in what is now Nopa (but then was squarely the Western Addition, crack dealers and all) and store my stuff in their garage. And when I was finally able to go back to work, the agency threw me a surprise “Shower” and replaced many things I had lost, including a brand new stereo with which to play my beloved music.
I know my story ends well. If it wasn’t for the love, help, support and generosity of others, I would have been screwed.
Back then I was lucky as I was young, had few belongings (relatively speaking), many friends, and parents who were still alive and living nearby. Now that I’m much older, have acquired more stuff, work from home, have fewer local friends and out of parents, it’s time to be more prepared for the next big quake due to happen in my lifetime. I’m starting to put together the disaster emergency “backpack” that we all should have under our beds. There are many emergency kits available and resources to help know what you need (change of clothes, water, hand-crank flash-light/cell charger, medication, blanket etc.)
Here are some things I’m going to pack in mine. We truly hope that everyone effected by Sandy are doing better and getting back on their feet.
1: Madpax Bubble Fullpack in Gumball, Madpax.com 2: Eugenia Kim cat cap, Eugeniakim.com 3: Hand-crank cell-phone charger, radio and flashlight, amazon.com 4: Aztec knit leggings, Topshop.com 5: B and D pump sneakers, bandd.com 6: Ultra light down jacket that folds into a bag, Uniqlo.com