Anaheim Republican state Sen. John Seymour was dressing for a political function Tuesday afternoon in his room at San Francisco's El Drisco Hotel when the 6.9-magnitude temblor struck. The furniture began to move. Something crashed from a table.
"The immediate thought was, 'My God, this is the heavy one,' " said Seymour, who was in the Bay Area city with his wife, Judy, for a fund-raiser for U.S. Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.) " 'We're on the fourth floor and we've got to get out of here.' "
But the couple discovered that the hotel was not only a safe spot, but also provided a view of both chaos and cooperation following the 5:04 p.m. temblor. From his vantage point in the hills of the Pacific Heights neighborhood, Seymour said the flames of the Marina district fire lit the sky.
"It was eerie as darkness fell because (the rest of the city) was totally black. The only light you could see was the light of vehicles, the sirens going."
Outside, people were scurrying. "I recall one woman running through the streets hollering, 'Papa! Papa!' I don't know if she ever found her father," he said.
He added that history apparently was with him Tuesday because the night before, a taxi driver told him of El Drisco: " 'You should know that it is one of the few hotels that withstood the 1906 quake.' "