The horror is still with me, even though the events described below took place almost three decades ago, on October 17, 1989. The time, 5:04pm, is drilled in my memory. I was at my desk on the 12th floor of the 180 Grand Avenue building at the corner of Lake Merritt in Oakland. I had just finished the first annual performance review of a staff member. It was a good review and both of us were smiling. As he got up to shake my hand, the desk moved. It was unnerving. And then out of nowhere there came an inexplicable, almost primeval sound. My eyes scanned the scene outside the window, seeking desperately to establish a frame of reference. There was a three-story building across the street whose roof had been under construction for the past couple of days. I saw the roofers scurrying back and forth, like a colony of ants on which hot water has been poured. I had felt this type of movement a few years ago in Palo Alto. I had returned from lunch that day and just as I entered my office, there was the sound of galloping horses on the roof, followed by a loud creaking noise from the book cases. I thought maybe it was something I had eaten that was giving me these apparitions and making me feel dizzy. I had poked my head out into the hallway to see what was happening. A number of other heads were also sticking out into the hallway. I had asked the nearest head what was happening and was told it was an earthquake. So I knew what it was this time around. In seconds I was under my desk. The desk shifted and hit my head on the left side. It hurt. Then it moved again and hit my head on the right side. It hurt even more. I did not like my head being banged on both sides. I had never been a boxer. My heartbeat shot up and I found myself hyperventilating. All of a sudden, the desk drawers were flung open, like in a horror movie. But this was no movie. This was pure, real-life horror. I was certain that the building would topple at any moment, perhaps falling on top of the roofers. Somehow my mind told me there was nothing to worry about. If the building toppled, it would stay in one piece. I would simply gather my senses and walk out of the horizontal building unscathed. That’s right, just walk out of a collapsed high rise as the super heroes do in the movies. It is amazing how the mind works during times of super stress. It certainly had a calming influence on me. My heartbeat normalised and the hyperventilation went away. But the building never fell. The desk did not hit me a third time. The drawers were not thrown out of their railing. All the shaking stopped just as quickly as it had started. The earth was still. An eerie silence descended on us. I came out from under the desk and stood up. My colleague also re-emerged from the other side of the desk. He had hid under the six-inch ledge, which protruded toward the door. He looked dazed and asked, “What was that?” I said with great confidence, “That was an earthquake.” In a couple of minutes several of us, perhaps two or three dozen, had gathered in the hallway. Some of us went into the conference room, which had a sweeping view of the approaches to the Bay Bridge to see what was going on. I had just finished the first annual performance review of a staff member. It was a good review and both of us were smiling. As he got up to shake my hand, the desk moved. It was unnerving. And then out of nowhere there came an inexplicable, almost primeval sound On one of the approaches to the bridge something grim was happening. A long cloud of dust was rising very slowly and going toward the sky. It was terrifying. We were called by the floor marshal to evacuate the building “immediately.” As we entered the stairwell, we discovered more steps then we had ever seen before. We kept going down and down, landing after landing. It was noisy and scary, almost as scary as the quake. We kept saying to ourselves, the building would not shake while we are out of the stairwell. By the time we emerged from the building, my all the muscles in my legs were aching, especially the quads. They were hurting big time. Was I ever so happy to feel the fresh air? A friend was sitting in his 5-series BMW with the radio open. All of gathered around the car to hear the breaking news. And that is how we came to know that the Cypress structure, which represented an approach to, the Bay Bridge had collapsed. And that a span of the cantilever section of the Bay Bridge had also collapsed. I had heard enough. I ran toward the parking garage where my three-year old Volvo 240 DL was parked. I started the engine and never looked back. There were no cell phones back then. I wanted to be with my family in Danville. Of course, my concern was that the parking garage would collapse on me. At some point I was on the California 24 freeway, heading into the long Caldecott tunnel. Again the thought occurred to me that it might collapse. So I raced through it. It had never felt so long. At some point I reached home. The house was still standing. I went inside. Everyone was fine. I hugged them like I had never hugged them before. No words were exchanged. The eyes said everything. In San Francisco, some houses had collapsed. I learned later the quake was centred near Loma Prieta peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains and registered 7.1 on the Richter scale. It was big, but not the Big One that is feared by all and sundry who live in California. The aftershocks persisted for weeks and gradually petered out. We just got used to them. The chandelier in the kitchen would begin swinging like a pendulum. The house would begin to creak, most noticeably in the cabinets and bookcases. You became sensitive to noticing the frequencies. Were they rising or falling? But they never rose to a pitch to warrant getting under the dining table or the desk or to stand in the doorway. Postscript. I was in Oakland for lunch just a few months ago. On the way back home, I decided to drive past that building at 180 Grand Avenue. It was a spooky feeling, since I had not been there for two decades. The tower stood there, proudly, a silent testimonial to what it had gone through on that one day in 1989. All the memories came rushing back. The writer has visited 35 countries on six continents. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, October 15th 2017.