The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 killed anywhere between 452 and 498 people, while injuring 1,500 others; the quake destroyed 490 city blocks and felled 1,200 chimneys in one of it's suburbs. The resulting fires burned for three days, reaching temperatures as high as 2,000 degrees and casting enough light to read by 40 miles away. On the whole it was a tragic event composed of thousands of personal stories by those who survived it and the journalist who collected these eyewitness thumbnail accounts of the tragedy did so in order that generations yet unborn would know the suffering that took place.
"There were two great shocks in San Francisco, the first starting at 5:12 a.m. The quaking sharpened in intensity for thirty seconds, held it's peak for more than 10 seconds, then abruptly ceased. A lull of about 10 seconds followed. Then came a devastating second shock of equal intensity. This lasted for 15 seconds, then passed off in shuddering after-tremors that would occur at an average rate of one an hour for the next 24 hours."
"The disturbance centered from 12 to 15 miles below the earth's surface and exploded with cosmic force. The earth quaked as if it had been struck a fantastic blow from outer space. Tremors radiated across mountains and under seas... [and] drained four inches from San Francisco Bay."
"The people fled into their suddenly Humpty Dumpty world, and stood shivering in their nightclothes in the dawn. The earthquake had aimed it's blind, malevolent force at each one of them. It had seized each one and rattled his bones as if it meant to kill him in a maniacal frenzy. Standing there, they looked around and listened and tried to relate what they saw and heard to the sane,
solid, dependable world they had lived in all their lives."
"A Western Union operator, probing and testing for a live wire in the Bay Area communication system, found one atop a telegraph pole in West Oakland. It was open to Sacramento. As the smoke mounted the sky above San Francisco like a volcanic cloud, he perched there and tapped out his message to the world."
Yet, one of the city's crusty old-timers quipped: "She'll have to shake harder 'n that to bring this town down! Twarn't nothin' to the quake in '68."