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THE BAY AREA QUAKE : 5:04 P.M. : A TIME WHEN LIVES CHANGED : Tales of the Quake: Death, Heroes and Luck : Under Attack at Ground Zero

October 20, 1989|ERIC BAILEY

In military terms, Rod Washington's gray, wood-frame home was pretty close to ground zero, about five feet from the San Andreas Fault as it runs through rustic Loma Priete and only two miles west of the epicenter of Tuesday's quake.

When it hit, Washington thought he was virtually under attack.

"I thought it was the end of the world, or at least the end of my world," Washington, a 48-year-old butcher, recalled as he huddled in a makeshift shelter in a school near his shattered home. "It just went on and on and on. I thought it would never stop."

A new, never-used set of china soared out of the cupboards "like Frisbees," turning $600 worth of plates and saucers into dust and shards within seconds, he said. The refrigerator danced back and forth across the kitchen floor, sliding four feet side to side. A dresser flew threw a wall. Pipes broke, drywall cracked and hardwood floors buckled everywhere.

"Everything was flying. Not just falling down but flying," said Washington. "It threw me into a wall and almost knocked me out. I just held on to a banister until it stopped. You just couldn't stand up."

Several fissures as wide as four feet across opened up around his home. "There's nothing in our house that isn't broke," he lamented. "I had one room that was so destroyed that all I can do is sweep (the contents) up and throw it all away."

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