If you click here right now, you can catch streaming coverage of the 100th Anniversary of the Great Quake that leveled San Francisco 100 years ago. It’s a big event in the City By The Bay.
The quake, an estimated 7.9 on the Richter scale, lasted almost a minute and led to a fire that lasted for over 4 days. Thousands died and tens of thousands were homeless, living in tents and shelters in Golden Gate Park and in makeshift tent-cities around the Bay Area.
A Siren Ceremony is ongoing right now . . . (and I’m sure the footage will be available later today as well).
It’s odd to watch such a thing in my home city from so far away on a sunny afternoon in an earthquake-free country. But as I stare at the tiny, slightly-grainy window on my computer screen, listening to old air-raid sirens, church bells, and fire-engine sirens wail for the length of the earthquake’s time, I feel humbled. For many Americans – and people around the world who watched live – the persistent sounds of sirens are linked to the events of 9/11. Even if not, sirens are seldom a good sound: meaning death, injury, fire, and loss.
All the firehouse doors in San Francisco were opened moments ago – something they literally could not do 100 years ago, as the earthquake bent buildings and the earth, sealing in those who wanted to save the city.
Those sirens wailing now remind San Franciscans and those who live in areas prone to sudden fits of an angry Mother Nature how tenuous our hold on our homes is. Here in London, I don’t have to worry about earthquakes, but knowing what struck San Francisco 100 years ago and what could strike again at any moment still makes me appreciate the beauty of cities – of people coming together to build a community, in spite of all the things that could destroy it.