Damage in the Marina District in 1989 following the Loma Prieta earthquake (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)
Damage in the Marina District in 1989 following the Loma Prieta earthquake (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

From our archive: The Loma Prieta earthquake, 30 years later

As the Bay Area remembers and memorializes the 30-year anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake of Oct. 17, 1989, we took a dip back into the J. archives to see how we covered it at the time.


Oct. 20, 1989

Edition delayed by earthquake

This issue of the Jewish Bulletin was produced two days late following Tuesday’s major earthquake, which necessitated temporary evacuation by our staff. Although our offices were unharmed save for some bookcases and papers upset, power was off until late Thursday. This edition represents a special effort by staff members who started contacting rabbis, synagogues and Jewish institutions in the Bay Area in the field and by phone from their homes. It is hoped that the Bulletin’s Oct. 27 edition will be published on time.

Oct. 27, 1989

Earthquake brought Bay Area Jews a mix of fear and prayer—and smiles

Advertisement in the Oct. 27, 1989 issue
Advertisement in the Oct. 27, 1989 issue

All through the Bay Area, the same question has been asked since last week’s 7.1 earthquake: “Where were you when it hit?” For Janice Freiburger of Larkspur, the answer was a scary “on the top deck of the Bay Bridge.” Freiburger and her partner, Bruce Stephen, were returning from the East Bay in his 1984 silver Mazda. The two co-workers were busy talking when Stephen indicated he had a flat tire. But when they saw the bridge swaying, they realized that what they were feeling was an earthquake.

Then they heard a loud noise, which Freiburger described as “a rumble, a dynamite-type explosion sound,” and found themselves plummeting forward, down the collapsed piece of roadway.

She remembers seeing water and fearing “we’d be going into it.”

In an interview from her hospital bed, Freiburger recalled “distinctly bracing myself like on a roller-coaster. I felt the sensation of air blowing past me. I don’t remember the impact of stopping, but when I opened my eyes, I still could see the bay.”

Ultimately the two were pulled to safety by people on the bridge, and they began walking toward San Francisco.

… Rabbi Gary Greenebaum was in Candlestick Park for the Bay Area World Series when the Earth started rumbling. At first he thought too many people were reveling. Then he realized it wasn’t just the concrete floor he felt shaking but the entire ballpark. The executive director of the Northern California Hillel Council said an eerie silence fell over the crowd, which moments before had been joyous, cacophonous. “What ran through my mind is I couldn’t believe this was how I was going to die.” — Peggy Isaak Gluck

Yes, it’s a ‘virtual community’ — a link for worried relatives

People online often speak of themselves as a “virtual community,” but their response to last week’s earthquake has mirrored that of the “real community” around them.

Lack of power caused the Sausalito-based WELL, which houses the Jewish Conference, to be out of commission for some six hours. But once it got running again, people started logging on, making sure their relatives and friends were all right.

People far outside the area, including distraught parents of students who couldn’t get through on regular phone lines, had no trouble reaching the WELL through interconnecting computer networks. — Tamar Kaufman

Residents of Menorah Park, who went days without power after the quake, picked up food at the JCC of San Francisco. From our Oct. 27, 1989 issue. (Photo/Matt Elkins)
Residents of Menorah Park, who went days without power after the quake, picked up food at the JCC of San Francisco. From our Oct. 27, 1989 issue. (Photo/Matt Elkins)

JCC offers hot meals and support to quake victims

Aided by donations from local bakeries, grocery stores and a case of shampoo from a San Francisco hotel, the San Francisco Jewish Community Center opened its doors over the weekend to provide snacks, hot meals, showers and other support services to victims of the earthquake. In addition, the center became an official collection site for the Salvation Army, and soon after the doors opened Saturday, a steady stream of donations — blankets, clothing, sleeping bags — were dropped off by local residents. — Matt Elkins

Nov. 3, 1989

JF&CS counselor tells how to cope with earthquake jitters

Talking about the Oct. 17 earthquake will help people cope with the emotional aftershocks, according to Amy Rassen of Jewish Family and Children’s Services.

“Sharing and talking with one another seems to relieve some of the feelings of being alone and safe,” said the JF&CS assistant director in an interview. “The whole Bay Area experienced the earthquake. There wasn’t anyone who missed it who was here.” And while personal issues varied, “everyone was just as helpless and out of control.”

Many people will continue to feel residual effects from the earthquake for up to six weeks, according to Rassen. Some may feel distracted, uncomfortable being alone, have difficulty concentrating, feel sad, mad or irritable, have trouble sleeping or sleep too much, experience an increase or decrease in appetite, feel exhausted for no reason, or perceive they are not in control.

… A number of Holocaust survivors have contacted the agency since the quake, seeking help in coping with a profound sense of loss of control, she said, noting that that sense probably comes from simiar feelings of helplessness in the years during and since the Holocaust.

… According to Rassen, another way of coping is to help others, “and that’s where tzedakah, charity, comes in. To assist people is the highest form of tzedakah, according to Maimonides, because you don’t know the person who you’re helping, you get no personal recognition, and the recipient doesn’t know where it came from, either.” Despite the emotional burdens, people have coped by pulling together and helping each other, she said. — Peggy Isaak Gluck

J.’s print editions go back to 1895, and have not yet been digitized. We are seeking funding to make this precious history available online for future generations. If you’re interested in furthering this project, please contact J. Editor Sue Fishkoff.