Sunday, October 21, 2012


It's been a busy week, and I'm not really up for research today, so I thought I'd share an odd little moment I had. It was this past Wednesday, October 17th, and I was at work, holding down the fort at the information desk. A young guy with long braided hair comes up to the desk--he looked a bit like an African prince, dressed down. He said to me, do you know what day it is? And the funny thing, is I knew exactly what he was asking me, so I said yes, I do. He said, my uncle was Shawn McCormick. And again I knew exactly who he meant. It's my birthday, he said. And my uncle died on this day. And I told him that I knew about Shawn McCormick. Shawn McCormick was one of two people who died on the other side of a wall from me, when that brick wall collapsed on them as they worked at the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company. He and Robin Ortiz were both very young people on October 17th, 1989, the day of the Loma Prieta earthquake.

I always do remember the date, not so much because of the trauma, but because there is a cluster of dates that come together in the middle of the month--my dad's birthday on the 16th, and my friends' son being born that same date, the day before the earthquake. So, like Shawn's nephew, there is a heavy plus and minus feeling to this time of year. I remembered the date that morning, but though several of us old hands still work at the bookstore, I didn't really think of bringing it up at work. It's not one of those round number anniveraries, and twenty-three years out, there really isn't so much to say. But I was very happy that this young man, who was two at the time his uncle died, had thought to come up to a random stranger who was connected with the bookstore. We shared a moment. We shook hands. He told me his name, but I don't remember it, though I wouldn't have posted it here anyway.

I didn't know either Shawn or Robin, but I do always think of them when I mark this day. The wall could so easily have fallen the other way.

a view of the buildings from the back, post-quake 


  1. How amazing that young man happened to speak to you of all the people who staff the bookstore. I am very sorry for his loss. It's really odd to think back to that day...23 years ago you say? Remembering what our family might have lost in that quake had things gone only slightly differently.

    I'm glad he had you to connect with, if only for a moment, and you him.

  2. Thanks for your responses, Julie and Kathleen. I have to say that it had a certain feeling of a visitation.

  3. Amazing and touching. Thank you for sharing, Janet