“I know exactly where I was at five o’clock on October 17: at the entrance to Golden Gate Park at the Arguello Gate. I was on Arguello Boulevard facing the park, so I was facing Santa Cruz and the origin of the quake. I was stopped at the stoplight and then I felt this bump and I thought some friend of mine had come up behind me and had tapped my rear bumper. I looked into my rearview mirror and there was no car, and then it dawned on me it could quite possibly be an earthquake.
And then I heard in the sky above me the swishing, the cutting of the overhead wires for the electric buses. I could hear them swishing through the air like a blade cutting the air at high speed. And then I looked and all of Golden Gate Park was in motion. It was incredible. All the trees looked like they were fishing poles — if you shake a fishing pole they quiver from the bottom to the top and it looked like there was a high wind or some kind of incredible wind blowing, only there was no wind.
There are two big columns, concrete columns, at the gateway to the park, and they were visibly moving from side to side. I could also hear the buildings in that neighborhood, which are all two- to four-story buildings, but close to each other — some two or three inches apart. I could hear the buildings racking against each other with this incredible noise which seemed to come from everywhere. The noise was like giants taking huge timbers and slamming them together but the noise also seemed to come from the sky and from the ground. It just came from everywhere.
And as I looked I could see in the ground a wave coming through Golden Gate Park, about a foot, foot-and-a-half high, and it ws coming directly at me. As it came through the park and the four lanes of Fulton Street, it lifted the roadbed. The ground seemed to give off a static charge. It looked like — if you pet a cat in the dark in the winter, as you run your hand over the fur you see charges of static electricity running up and down the cat — but the static electricity was so thick on the ground it looked like it was a layer of ice, almost. It looked to be half an inch to an inch radiating off the ground as the ground was cracking.
As the wave passed under my car hitting my front tires first, it felt like being on a wave in the sea. So running east to west is the wide street called Fulton, and at 5:04 p.m. when the thing hit, the sun was low in the sky, and as I looked west to my right I saw that all the roadbed between me and the sun was in motion. It was like when you throw a stone into a lake and if the sun or moon is low you catch the sunlight or moonlight on top of the ripples and have a sparkling effect.
I saw the sparkle of the sun on the ground as the earth moved for, like, five seconds. It couldn’t have lasted long. The whole event was fifteen seconds. And I looked at the traffic lights, and they were on for a second and then they went off. And I looked out the window next to me, and there was a 1967 or 1968 Cadillac convertible with two black guys from the neighborhood in it, and they looked at me, and I looked at them and said, ‘That was a fucking big earthquake!’
And they looked at me and said in the same instant in the same voice, ‘We fucking love it.’ “
- Kimo Bailey