It is the 110th anniversary of the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire. This is the first year that there are no known survivors to gather at Lotta’s Fountain.
My Jones, Jackson, and Kelly relatives were living in the city on the 18th of April 1906. All but one lived to tell the tale.
My great grandmother, Margaret (Jones) Jackson, shared several stories with her daughter, Anne (my grandmother). I’ve compiled them into this article, “1906 Earthquake and Fire in San Francisco: Stories from my Great Grandmother.” She told of the devastation and loss…and I was able to find documents that proved some of her stories.
My great grandmother and her 1 month old baby survived. But, what about the emotional scars? According to her granddaughter, she never quite got over her fear of earthquakes. Every time there was a large rattle or shake from a truck driving by or an airplane flying overhead, she tensed. She survived it all right, but some scars never healed.
This is my favorite photo of my great grandmother. She was one tough cookie, wasn’t she?
It wasn’t until I went through the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 that I got some sense of what my ancestors experienced. We were fortunate in that our area had only minor damage. Except for some broken glasses in the buffet cabinet and the inconvenience of not having electricity for a day, we did just fine. But, we all felt the emotional impact of the disaster. With each life lost, it was as if we all had lost someone close to use.
Having gone through this, I can relate to my great grandmother in a small way. Once you’ve been through a disaster of this magnitude, you can’t ever really shake it. I don’t have the fear of earthquakes that my great grandmother developed, but I still think of that day and the weeks that followed.
I think of the people in the drug house across the street from the collapsed freeway on ramp who got a ladder and pulled out survivors before the fire department was able to get on scene. I think of the man who was trap in his car for days and was pulled out alive. We cheered for his recovery, but he passed away soon after. I remember the friends of a person trapped under the rubble of a business in Santa Cruz shouting her name. She didn’t make it. I visited places where the physical signs of damage were present months after.
In due time, healing happens. Life returns to its normal heartbeat. You never forget but you find your routine.
This anniversary we watch and wait as Japan and Ecuador, both in the active region known as the Ring of Fire, are going through major earthquakes. Ecuador experienced an aftershock that was larger than the Loma Prieta quake. My thoughts are with them and I hope that those who are missing are safe.
You can read my remembrances of the Loma Prieta earthquake in my post “Where Were Your When the Loma Prieta Earthquake Struck”
Photo of Stockton Street Source:
Arnold Genthe [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons