October 17, 1989. Some dates you never forget. I was living in Santa Cruz, CA when the Loma Prieta earthquake struck. The world shook. My world shook.
Ironically, at the moment the earthquake began, 5:07 pm, I was helping move my ex-girlfriend into a new apartment because we had broken up after living together for four years. It was a devastating moment.
We ran out into the driveway. I member watching the pavement wave up and down, our car jerking back and forth. We clung to each other. I don’t know how long the shaking lasted: 10 seconds or 20.
When it ended there was an instant of silence, followed by the sound of an explosion nearby. Sirens wailed from every direction.
We ended up staying together that night, in the house I remained in, now full of toppled bookshelves and spilled cabinets. We both were upset and unsure. But the next day, we saw our breakup plan through.
People died, people were injured, and in the days that followed I was numb to most feelings but volunteered my time at a food pantry. The restaurant where I worked was temporarily closed while the Municipal Wharf was checked for damage.
Recovery took a long time–for Santa Cruz and for me. I used to think that the earthquake striking on that day had to have larger meaning, and had to have a significant message just for me, because it was the day my relationship ended. Of course, I soon realized that thousands of people were likely doing something at that moment that could be construed to have larger meaning.
But it’s not true. There was no larger meaning. There was no special message directed to me. It was pure coincidence, nothing more or less. If there was any message to be received, any lesson to be learned, it was this.
So I always remember October 17, the anniversary of the earthquake. But I always remember other, happier anniversaries: my wedding date, the date my children were born. The message I got from the universe on those days was one of love.