Where was I at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, January 24, 1980? I was sitting in my 7th grade science class at Mendenhall Junior High School. Mendenhall was a Junior High School back then with classes for 7th and 8th graders only. I don’t recall what exactly we were studying at the time, but I do remember the lights going out and lots of noise as the ground shook that morning. Much like we were all taught, we quickly got under our desks and waited for the shaking to stop. Once it had, our teacher gathered us up and we all proceeded out of our classroom and into the large open quad area between several of the buildings deep within Mendenhall. I can’t remember what exactly I was thinking or the exact chain of events that took place after the quake. Although, what sticks in my mind the most is the dark classroom, one with no windows, and how the only light we had was from a pair of floodlights that lightened the room just enough for us to see our way out to the outside.
For some reason what happened after that I have no recollection of. Were we sent home? Did we wait outside till the lights came back on and resumed classes again? I really don’t remember. Till this day though, I remember being scared and excited at the same time. Earthquakes can be quite jarring and I know it made quite an impression on my 12 year old self, but having lived through such an experience with no damage to the school or anyone being hurt it was quite a story that was fun to share with all of my friends for sometime afterwards.
A couple of days later, on Saturday, January 26th, another aftershock struck at 6:33 p.m. I remember being home that evening and walking down the hall in my mother’s house when I heard a low rumbling sound that got louder and louder with each step that I took. My pace quickened as I practically ran into the family room as the major shaking commenced. We didn’t lose power, but just the thought of coming down that hallway and hearing that sound still gives me chills even though it all happened 30 years ago.
My memory of all the details has faded over the years since that fateful day in January 1980, but I can still recall the few moments described above. In addition, I remember everything in my room at home was tossed about, but only on one side. In fact, our fence outside my room had a new bend, exactly in line with everything that was messed up in my room. Strange. I no longer have the t-shirt that I bought that said something to the effect of, “I survived the 5.5 Livermore Earthquake.” Maybe I should have kept it? Perhaps it would be a collector’s item today?
Fortunately, I was old enough to remember what happened that day, but I was also young enough to look at the event with the playful eyes of youth. Which leaves me today with fond memories of the day that shook Livermore, California.