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Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Most of us here in San Francisco remember the Earthquake in 1989 which was a 5.9. This one Earthquake left a lasting memory on most of us present - me more.

This recent one with its epicenter in the Napa County - to be precise American Canyon - was 6.2. Any quake - which is technically, a prolonged tremor - an earthquake - over 6.0 is of serious concern.

Recently all over the world there were a series of earthquakes over 6.0. Mother Earth is telling us something. Even if the Earth causes the most horrendous thing to happen - as far as the Earth is concerned - it will go on.

Much as it has in the past. In less than 300 years we have contaminated, polluted, tap our water resources - our streams, our rivers, but more than that the watershed.

There is a relationship with water and the land mass - two thirds of our Earth - believe it or not - is water.

They say one way the Earth announces - the stress - it releases the stress - from the very Earth plates that move, rub, dash, clash - and do their thing.

The plates send these prolonged tremors - the bigger ones called earthquakes - they cause adverse impacts - often killing people and destroying property.

We reflect a little - go on with our work - and wait for the next episode. We have no hurricanes but when it comes to tremors and earthquakes - God keep us alive and kicking - remind us who is in charge.

From past experiences of earthquakes - there is the rolling sound - much like a train - and then you feel the Earthquake. That is what happened in 1989.

Then there is a sudden jolt - and before you know it - your senses force you say - "that's an Earthquake". That is what happened recently - and that is exactly what I said - half asleep at 3:20 in the morning.

Napa has suffered a loss - many of its landmark buildings - some seismically retrofitted, still - suffered structural damage. The many red bricks buildings - suffered the worst damage.

There were some human injuries and one death has been reported. All in all this recent Earthquake just announced and keeps announcing - that the Earth in our area - has something to say.

Billions of dollars worth of aged wine and other expensive wine - splashed to the ground.

As the barrels and wine bottles - broke on impact - "  some bottles worth thousands of dollars - you cannot cry over spilled wine" - or is it spilled milk!

This year they say was a good year - the drought has some impact on the vines and the grapes mature well.

The content and the quality of the wine - this year - they say was one of the best - but then came the "earthquake" - and had to ruin it for those that treasured their lively hood - and their precious cargo.

Californians more in the Napa Valley region are resourceful.

The United States government and the other agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) - will come look, review the situation - and promise some help.

That help will take ages - sufficient time for the wine to age - and life must go on - and it will go on.

When a major Earthquake strikes - we all have our tales to tell - what exactly we were doing - in 1989 - come to mind at once.

Once at dinner - at one table - there were two individuals - who introduced themselves - as being there when the 1906 Earthquake took place. Of course they were young in 1906 - and that  dinner took place - way back in 1991.

My long last earthquake experience was when I worked at the Presidio of San Francisco - a federal jurisdiction.

I went into action in 1989 - for which the General at the Presidio of San Francisco - deemed fit to honor me with a Commander's Award.

At first I thought little of it - but as time goes by - this award meant a lot.

We had to go into action - take control of an area - do the logistics and help the people - in San Francisco.

The Red Cross came three weeks later - we had done most of the work - and just passed on what was in place to the Red Cross.

We are a City and County of San Francisco - there was no sound, stellar, or truly workable Emergency Center in 1989.

There is an  San Francisco Emergency Office now - and the many exercises conducted by the Office of Emergency Services - an entity which is meant to be prepared - but you never know.

Last I heard there was some talk that our radios that operate on a different frequency would be strengthen  and fine tuned - to make them fully operational and useful.

The Federal government would be giving us millions - I do not know - if this new system - is in place.

More, where most of the emergency crews - can talk and communicate well - clearly hear one another and act.

Without major static and interference - as we all experience before - and even for sure a year ago.

The best preparation is to be prepared on a smaller - more intimate scale - the neighborhood block.

The San Francisco Fire Department and others conduct Neighborhood Emergency Response Training (NERT) courses - that prepare one - to address the basic needs and requirement - when the Big One strikes.

On a wider scale downtown too - there are emergency drills - trying to evacuate people from the many skyscrapers.

Mock traffic jams are created - creating some traffic hurdles - and then trying to address the mess - all these are exercises - that help some.

However, when the real thing happens - those that have nerves of steel somehow take charge and put those who are supposedly trained and know a lot - to shame.

You see things truly damaged, blood, people crying and shouting in pain, roads damaged, freeways down - with folks pinned and emergency crews and other working hard, all sorts of noises - ambulances - and so on - it is a war zone really - only without enemy fire.

In areas where the poor live - the best thing to do - is to get prepared.

Do not dream that help will come - these folks that talk a lot -  mostly from the San Francisco Office of Emergency Services - are just that - talk.

Truly speaking we should have a couple of teams from San Francisco - go to Napa - do our thing and report.

But - that is far from what you will expect - from those that talk the talk and cannot walk the walk. The first think they will think about - who will pay for the service we donate?

I have been getting calls from loved ones and others - inquiring if all of us are safe in San Francisco ? 

We are - thank God.

Some did not even wake up at 3:20  am when the quake announced itself.

They slept through - well, so much for steel nerves - and a deep sleep that rides you through a earthquake - oblivious to this fact.

I woke up  abruptly - to find out from the media that indeed it was an earthquake, centered in Napa County.

First they said it was 5.8 then within hours - 6.0 and then finally they settled for 6.2.

A memorable day in my life - this they say the largest earthquake in the last 25 years. 

I still feel the 1989 closer to San Francisco - impacted more people, caused more damage and left a truly, lasting impression.

I remember the 1989 Earthquake - jolting most everyone - including those taking a nap - it was 5:09 or so in the evening - I was on the freeway - and as I exited - to land on San Bruno Avenue - I felt the impact.

I got a call - my cell phone was working - and I was on my way - to go do what I do best.

We had the Sixth U.S. Army and Presidio of San Francisco - already - putting out fires in the Marina.

Other soldiers doing what they do best - I remember their stellar service - and more their lasting friendship.

Mayor Art Agnos was the Mayor - he was there at the ceremony at the Presidio of San Francisco - so was General Harrington - the Corps of Engineers.

The previous morning I was told to report to Pershing Square - that I would be honored.

" Honored for what ?" - you will find out they said. 

 I put on my best sports coat - and reported on time. Still wondering what was all the fuss about.

Then I met others - " they wanted to honor us for what we all did during the earthquake" - it still did not sink in.

When our soldiers took their position, the flags and all - the Sixth U.S. Army band - the dignitaries all lined up not far from us - about 30 individuals waiting to be honored - reality struck home.

The announcements were made - and then came the pinning of the medal - and the certificate - Commander's Award - well, we all had earned it.

Now I treasure this award more - I served well at the Presidio of San Francisco and got another Commander's Award before I retired - the first one is - memorable.

The Commander's Award 1989 was special - it was because I took charge of a situation - and helped thousands - with my Sixth Army soldiers - working shoulder to shoulder - doing what we do best.

On my FaceBook I still have that photograph - of course I had a full head of jet black hair - and people - still recognize me from that photograph.

You see those standing in attention to receive their award, the Corps of Engineers - most important the Sixth U.S. Army in all its regalia. Memories of an earthquake and all that it brought out - in so many of us that love this City and County of San Francisco.

Of course today no more Sixth U.S. Army and Presidio of San Francisco - today - we have other entities that have yet to prove their worth - one of them the Office of Emergency Services - too much talk and no walk.

God Bless America and God bless the United States of  America.