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The Loma Prieta Earthquake
Submitted by Helen Bridge
Chabot College

On October 17th, 1989, Chabot College, along with the rest of Northern California, was rocked by a massive 6.9 earthquake. The quake struck at 5:04 PM, fortuitous in one regard because at that hour, day classes were over, and evening classes hadnít begun. It was unfortunate in another regard, however. The evening commute was in full swing, paralyzing traffic around the campus and the entire Bay Area, making emergency response very difficult.

Notwithstanding Chabotís good luck, the campus did sustain some damage. In the library, several light fixtures came crashing down, breaking glass and exposing electrical wires. Thousands of books tumbled from shelves, and cracks were found in the library mezzanine. Outside the menís locker room, the concrete courtesy dividers were badly shaken, causing them to break loose from their foundation. Two feet of water spilled out of the campus swimming pool. Cracks were found in the ceiling of the Performing Arts Building.

At Chabot, the most significant effect of the earthquake was on the students and staff. For one thing, the new president of the college, Dr. Terry Dicianna, had only been on the job for a few weeks, and as a Texan, had never experienced a quake. He was really taken aback by the whole event, uncertain, perhaps, at first about how to respond. For another, Chabot students who were out and about earning a living, driving, studying at home, hanging out with friends, or anything else when the quake struck, were traumatized in varying degrees. When school resumed the next day (after some indecision by school officials), only about half of them came to classes. The ones who did attend were too distracted by their individual experiences, and were not willing or able to do much class work. They needed to talk about what had happened. College staff, even though many of them had also experienced damage to property or equanimity, responded very professionally, providing whatever help and counseling students needed.

It took awhile for campus life to get back to normal. Repairs to the library took several weeks. Classes got back to normal size fairly quickly. All members of the college community, though, were transfixed for a few days by endlessly repeated images on television of the broken Bay Bridge, with that last car driving into the damaged section, and the collapsed Cypress section of I-880 with the crushed vehicles mashed beneath. The Marina district of San Francisco kept burning, over and over again. And at Chabot, students and staff alike tried hard to stay focused on getting back to our daily routine. None of us who were there at that time will ever forget it.

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