Twenty Nine Years After

Twenty-nine years ago the Loma Prieta earthquake happened at 5:04 and changed my life forever after.

The Loma Prieta earthquake and the fifteen seconds I spent cowering under a big oak desk while the ceiling came down in the hundred year old building I was working in changed how I viewed every other second that came after.

The Loma Prieta earthquake and the two kind people (one who was someone’s love, one who was someone’s dad) who died on the other side of the wall during those fifteen seconds changed the way I treated every other person I met after.

The Loma Prieta earthquake and the destruction it wrought made me a teacher and a writer and has influenced every lesson I’ve taught and every word I’ve written after.

You’re probably tired of hearing about it. That’s cool. I get sentimental and weird on October 17. I always spend the day thinking, what if I died? Have I been of use? Have I justified my life? Robin and Sean died on the other side of the wall and I happened to be standing next to a big oak desk that protected me so I lived. Have I made my life worthwhile? Have I made enough of the after?

Macabre thoughts, I know, but that’s what goes through your head when your life choices were shaped by a near death you experienced at nineteen. My death was near. I was near the death of others who deserved to live just as much as I did.

So I was motoring around school this morning fueled by my usual October 17 morbidity and melancholy when the senior Varsity Football boys asked me to stop walking so fast because they had something to tell me. They voted me to be their co-captain during the Homecoming game this weekend, they said. Every year they get to pick the teacher to be their pal on the field during the last home game, and they handed me a jersey and said this year it would be cool if it was me.

What do you have to say about that? they asked. What’s the word?

I say yes to you, fellas, my beloved students and sons of my heart. Yes to you, and to all those to come ever after.



  • This post was originally titled Thirty Years After but that was because I am a bad counter. It was twenty-nine years ago.


  1. Marcus Salm

    Maureen: that is just incredible and I am touched so much as often happens when I read your writings. That is life in the big/little things all of which matter so much. In all of my 84 years, I never had the near death experience you describe. If it ever happens to me, I somehow think I will be better prepared because of you. Love, Uncle Marc

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Janis Haag

    Wow, Maureen… I didn’t know this about your experience during that earthquake. Were you in college or teaching then? You have made SO much of the after, not the least in writing about this, and for those football players who want you to be their co-captain, an honor (I think) you’ve been given before. That’s just one validation among many for your going on when your two colleagues did not. You have taken the “yes” ever after, you fine writer, strong teacher, you. And for that so many of us are grateful.

    Liked by 1 person

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