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THE BAY AREA QUAKE : 15 Seconds

October 20, 1989

In the first second, there is a rumbling. It seems to grow. In the second and third seconds, the earth begins to move. Buildings, streets, cars, people, all are losing control.

In the fourth and fifth seconds, the earth reaches its full, angry spasm, The rumbling is overwhelmed by the sound of metal, of glass, desperate people screaming. There is the hint of gas. It is faint at first, then a insistent stench. In the sixth and seventh seconds, early lights of evening dim and falter.

In the eighth and ninth seconds, it becomes clear this is no small earthquake. The thought weakens the knees, dries the tongue. Now the sound is larger. Here and there, one can see dust. Or is it smoke? Walls are crumbling. Streets are buckling. Part of a bridge falls, Then a freeway cracks, begins to plunge. The 10th second. The 11th second. Still the earth will not stop.

Four more seconds and:Two hundred people are feared dead.

Thousands are hurt-many critically

$1 billion worth of damage is done.

Fifteen second have gone by.

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