I was working in the HP Response Center, on Central Expressway at San Antonio in Mountain View, 2nd floor, about 4 rows from the huge ceiling-to-floor windows. This was a new building, about a year old, it was built on the site of what had been the failed Mayfield Mall shopping center, and when we moved in there from the Scott Blvd site, they told us about how the building was built to exceed earthquake standards, including a feature where the windows were supposed to fall outward, onto the ground below, rather than clobber us in our cubicles. Where I sat, this would have clobbered any cars going up the ramp to the employee parking lot, which was on the 2nd floor.
My cubicle was a standard office space with overhead book cases on three sides, chock full of heavy manuals, including most of the set of HPUX man pages. Think phone book times 20. My job was to support anything which could print or plot from HP software, so I had a lot of big thick books up there. The covers were down but not locked, since it was toward the end of the day and I'd been using the books.
The building started to shake, I'd been in a 6.something quake in Seattle as a teen** so I knew what it was. Immediately got under the desk, and stayed there as it rained books for about a minute. The quake only lasted about 20 seconds, but the books took some time to find their way to the floor.
No windows fell. Nothing was broken. Everyone was okay, but the whole floor was inundated with manuals. Power went out, and the emergency generator which had just been tested a week ago failed to kick in. It was still light out, and we were going to just start picking up books but the security morons told us to leave the building.
All the traffic lights were out, which tied up traffic something horrible. It took me about an hour to get home, about 3 miles away.
The apartment was undamaged, I don't remember if there was power or not. I'd recently given my cats to a friend in Felton, he called later to tell me one of them had run away (and she never returned).
We spent the next two work days picking up books. One of the earthquake-proof columns supporting the underground parking area cracked, HP never repaired it, they just taped off the area. A water pipe broke in the basement - flooding all the servers. We ran off of servers in either Kansas or Georgia, I can't remember where our backup support sites were.
I'll leave it to others to recount the horror of the Cypress Street Structure and Bay Bridge collapses.
A week later I went to Watsonville to help, but was turned away by the official emergency folks. I also visited Santa Cruz to see the mess there.
My long-planned trip to Thailand was in a couple of weeks, and part of being able to afford it was moving out of my rented house, putting all my stuff in my car and leaving it in the HP parking lot. Everything which didn't fit in the car went to earthquake relief, except my collection of show tunes LPs (which went to my Felton buddy) and my stereo was parked at a girlfriend's. edith_mf, I think?
**We moved to Seattle in January 1965. I was sitting in German class, looking out the window over Lake Washington, when the lawn started rolling. Rainer Beach High School was built on fill which used to be a swamp. It sat on a concrete slab. The building rolled with the lawn. The teacher screamed as she ran out of the room, the class just sat there. A I turned to the guy next to me, and asked
"does this happen often?" and he said
"how long have you been here?" I said
"About three weeks" he said
"It happens about every three weeks."
I kept expecting it at any minute, but the next big one didn't hit Seattle till I had graduated college and moved away.