'We Were Made Of The Right Stuff,' Ex-Mayor Recalls How City Handled '89 Quake

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October 16, 2019 - 5:15 am
At Candlestick Park, the World Series was suddenly forgotten. A fan reacts to the shaking at the park in October 1989 just after the Loma Prieta earthquake.

Paul Kitigaki/Sacramento Bee/MCT/Sipa USA

Thirty years ago, an enormous quake, now known as the Loma Prieta, hit San Francisco. The 6.9 magnitude disaster was triggered by the San Andreas Fault and killed 63 people, caused 3,537 injuries, cost $6-billion in damages and leveled part of the Bay Bridge. 

People who were in the Bay Area at the time can often recall exactly where they were and what they were doing when the historic earthquake occurred. 

Then-San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos was just arriving at Candlestick Park to enjoy game three of the World Series between the hometown Giants and Oakland A's. 

“We walked into the ballpark itself and the place was rocking,” he said. “The ballplayers were milling all over the field. The stands were upset.”

Related: Loma Prieta Quake Introduced Public To Liquefaction

Citizens turned to him for guidance, and for the next two weeks, Agnos helped this “crazy, kooky city” recover in what he calls his proudest moments of public service.

His first move was an important one. 

“The first thing was to make sure that we were communicating with the public in a variety of languages so that their stress level could be eased in the midst of all of this,” said Agnos. “I was the only conduit to the people of San Francisco and the Bay Area because the media attention was entirely focused on me.”

As the nation and the world watched, Agnos takes pride in the way that city residents reacted to the crisis. 

“The people of San Francisco showed America that we were made of the right stuff,” he said. “There was no looting. There was no rioting. So, this diverse city that most of the world thinks is crazy showed what we were made of.”

Reporting by Jim Taylor