Here it is Easter Sunday and just two days from now, will mark 100 years since The Great Earthquake and Firestorms of 1906: How San Francisco Nearly Destroyed Itself.
The centennial of the earthquake, April 18, 1906, has prompted a flurry of titles by historians, scientists, artists, novelists and cultural critics. A certain opportunism among publishers is at work, to be sure, but it’s also true that Californians never really stop thinking about quakes. If we are ever inclined to forget the tectonic plates shifting beneath our feet, the occasional shudder or shake reminds us.
Here’s hoping we are able to stave off another ‘Great Earthquake’ for at least another 100 years.
The scale of devastation in the 1906 earthquake and fire tends to overwhelm the imagination â€” between 3,000 and 5,000 people died, more than 28,000 structures burned, and more than 500 city blocks were leveled by quake, flames or the dynamite charges that were ignited to stop the fires. Yet the authentic drama best emerges when events are viewed at eye level: “The seeds of trauma are scattered within individuals,” Fradkin writes. “All that is needed for them to sprout is a shake of our established worlds, and then, like black bulbs, they bloom again and again.”
My thoughts and prayers go out to all the people around the globe who have, just in the past year alone, endured great tragedy and hardship though these types of disasters, earthquakes, volcanoes, massive hurricanes and tornadoes, tsunami …
These books make the point that the 1906 catastrophe was not an apocalyptic event, especially compared with Chile’s death toll of 20,000 when an earthquake struck ValparaÃso later the same year. San Franciscans quickly recovered and rebuilt an even more glorious city. Indeed, the disaster seemed to inspire a certain bravado in both builders and scientists â€” the San Francisco quake is generally credited as the starting point of the modern science of seismology.