Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Big Rumble - 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake 20th Anniversary

The city of San Francisco is preparing to rumble to mark the 20th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, the largest since the Great Quake of 1906.

Called 'The Big Rumble', the anniversary will be in the form of 'Where Were You In '89?' neighbourhood block parties, and city-organized activities. The aim is to raise

awareness in preparation for the next widely-anticipated Great Quake to hit the city.

Events will start on Monday, October 12, and run every day to the anniversary date of the quake, Saturday, October 17. At the closing ceremony, there will be a fundraising launch to build a monument to honour the city's firefighters.

Kickoff is in the City Hall with a panel of disaster responders discussing advances made in emergency planning and quake protection since 1989, with a presentation on the last quake. On Thursday there will be a California-wide Drop, Cover and Hold Drill, and on Saturday the street parties and four Preparedness Fairs across the city will be held.

The 1989 quake was the largest on the San Andreas fault since what is known as the Great Quake of San Francisco of 1906, for which the city still holds annual commemorations with a few remaining survivors.

The Loma Prieta quake struck across Central California with a magnitude of 6.9. It killed 63 people, injured 3,757, made over 12,000 people homeless and caused about $6 - $10 billion in property damage. San Francisco suffered about $3 billion of damage.

From the city, one of the most memorable news shots was of a collapsed section of the Bay Bridge - see pic above taken from USGS website - where one female driver died and her passenger was severely injured when the driver failed to see the gap and stop in time and her car fell into the broken section.

The quake was also famous in news shots around the world as it occurred during the warm-up of a World Series baseball game between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Raiders and was caught live on camera at the Giants' former Candlestick Park stadium.

Its epicenter was in the Santa Cruz Mountains in the forest of Nisene Marks State Park, near Santa Cruz and just south of the Loma Prieta Mountain after which it was named. Near the epicenter it was recorded as beginning at 5:04:21 p.m., and arrived at the Presidio next to the Golden Gate Bridge at 5:04:37 with the heaviest shaking recorded at 5:04:47 p.m.

Along the coast, a four-foot tsunami wave rose up in Monterey Bay, there was a landslide under the sea, and the sea level in Santa Cruise harbour fell by three feet. A magnitude 5.2 aftershock struck 37 minutes after the initial shock and altogether 51 aftershocks of magnitude 3.0 and larger occurred during the first day.

Looters were warned that they would face jail and no bail, and a 24-year-old man was shot by a distressed motorist when he was caught stealing traffic flares from volunteers.

In order to encourage people to remember and prepare, The Big Rumble 'has worked closely with San Francisco SAFE Inc, The American Red Cross, the Neighborhood Empowerment Network, the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services and the Department of Parking and Traffic to help you produce a one-of-a-kind fun filled day for your community.'

Limited grants to help towards some of the street costs of a block party are being offered, with applications needing to be in by next Wednesday, Sept 23.

In the aftermath of the 1989 quake, US Geological Survey scientists said they stood by their report warning of a major earthquake in Southern California by 2018. Last year, earthquake experts forecast a Great Quake over the next 30 years, ie by 1938.

More info:

For events info and toolkits:

USGS - US Geological Survey - Earthquake Hazards Program

San Francisco Earthquake History 1915-1989

pics of the quake are taken from the USGS website. They show: the Bay Bridge; devastation in the Marina District; cars crushed near 5th and Townsend where five people died

Friday, September 18, 2009

Start! San Francisco Heart Walk Hopes to Raise $1.4 Million

Between 4,000 and 5,000 people participated in Start! San Francisco Heart Walk this morning.

With temperatures soaring, they walked from the Justin Herman Plaza, opposite the Ferry Builiding, at 11.30 am, down the Embarcadero and around the Giants' ballpark and back, to hopefully raise about $1.4 million dollars for the American Heart Association.

The sidewalk was a mass of colour as teams representing over 80 companies and charitable groups from the city sported logo-ed tee shirts. Near the ballpark, the Giants' mascot, Lou Seal, perched on his red cart and encouraged them, and volunteers handed out chilled bottles of water.

One very thankful walker was transplant patient, MaryAnne McDonough, who received a new heart in February of this year and was walking under the team name '2 Months Til Dawn.'

An attractive, vivacious blonde-haired young woman smiled out from the posters MaryAnne and sister, Nellie Sharp, held up as they walked. The photos were of San Diego softball athlete, Dawn Brejcha, the woman MaryAnne owes her life to. Tragically, Dawn died in February from a brain aneurysm at the age of 41 years.

MaryAnne was at death's door when the gift of Dawn's young and healthy heart arrived at Stanford Hospital.

How does she feel today on the walk?

'Great! I'm alive and here to spend great times with the children and grandson and family. I hope to be here a long time,' she said, with daughters Jennifer and Ashley alongside.

'I'm forever thankful to Dawn to give me life, and to her family, especially Lucille and Al - her parents - because if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here today.'

pic shows MaryAnne, Nellie, Jennifer and Ashley

Most of the walkers finished the 3-mile walk in about an hour, and lolled around in the plaza after to eat lunch, browse the stalls giving out information on healthy lifestyles and to watch some entertainment.

Volunteer Board member, Mr Keith Donnermeyer, was very pleased with the way the event had gone.

'It just gets better every year with more and more teams coming out. We've had the usual participants and a whole load of new people, which was really the goal,' he said, 'to get new people.'

Because the aim is not just money but to raise awareness to eat well and be healthy. Particularly by walking.

Research shows that walking for as little as 30 mins per day reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, lowers blood pressure, helps to prevent osteoporosis, reduces the risk of cancer and improves mental well being, as well as other health benefits.

Keith was standing back in the Justin Herman Plaza at 1.15 pm, as many of the walkers were finishing. Official temperatures for San Francisco were at 75 degrees, but in the plaza sheltered from sea breezes and in the direct rays of the sun it felt much hotter.

The San Francisco walk is thought to be one of the three largest heart walks in America, and possibly today, one of the hottest for the city.

'This is the hottest one I can remember,' said Keith, 'and I've done them in Sacramento, so this is nice!'

A second Start! San Francisco Heart Walk for heart and stroke victims will be held next Saturday, Sept 26, in the Golden Gate Park across from the Conservatory of Flowers. Time: 10:00 am - 1:00 pm, it is a 3 mile Heart Walk and Stroke Miracle Mile.

More info:

Paddling Pool Parked at Embarcadero!

Forget parked cars, these employees have parked.......a paddling pool!

In sweltering temperatures at the embarcadero, these guys were keeping cool at the kerbside in their lunch break. They work for design firm IDEO, whose offices are behind them on Pier 28.

Work was still on their minds, though. They were sitting with CEO Tim Brown's new book, 'Change by Design.'

As a design model for a lunchbreak, they just might be on the edge of a breakthrough!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

14th Annual Ghiradelli Square Chocolate Festival

Chocolate is flowing in Ghiradelli Square this weekend as the 14th Annual Ghiradelli Square Festival takes place.

It opened at midday today and soon crowds were clustering around the stalls that lined the square's plaza and street below. Entry is free if you just want to browse and walk past stalls of mouth-watering chocolate offerings and enjoy live music, childens' activities, free shows and chef demonstrations and test drive a Cadillac SRX.

To sample, though, which is really the point of the festival, you have to purchase a ticket for $20, which entitles you to 15 chocolate wares.

'Chocolate with everything' is the motto: truffles, brownies, biscotti, cream puffs, shortbread, fudge, macaroons, pancakes, toffee, cupcakes, cookies, cakes, nuts, marshmallows, ice cream, milk shakes, even vodka and tea!

A place that Charlie of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would take his family to.

Just like Christina who with her love of chocolate had spurred her aunt into bringing her and other members of the family to San Francisco specially for the festival. Aunt and mum, Lucretia, daughters Angie and Edith, and nieces, Christina and Anna, from the Bay Area, were tucking with relish into tubs of Ghiradelli hot chocolate fudge ice cream sundaes. (pic: Angie, Christina, Lucretia, Edith, Anna)

But it is Christina who is designated the chocolate lover. 'We're all into chocolate because of her!' said Lucretia.

What else had they had? Chocolate marshmallow and a chocolate smoothie! said Angie, rolling her eyes in delight.

That left her 12 more samples.

'I need some water!' she gasped.

Along with the chocolate, wine is also a festival feature. The Wattle Creek Winery, whose tasting room is in the plaza, were offering either a tasting menu or wine by the glass. I took the rose served by Laura, light and not too sweet, however wine is not in the ticket price and comes at $5 a glass.

While the purpose of the festival is to advertize as well as entertain, it is also a fundraiser for Project Open Hand, a charity that provides 'meals with love' for people suffering from serious illness and for seniors in San Francisco and Alameda County.

It has a range of services. Volunteers take food to the housebound, serve community meals, hand out bags of groceries and give nutritional advice.

Gowned in black charity aprons, their volunteers were spread around stalls in the festival. Anne and Claudia were outside the Crown and Crumpet, a tea shop that describes itself as an 'English tea salon.' For once, instead of a nutritious meal they were offering chocolate mint tea, and truffles infused with Earl Grey tea.

Two would-be partakers, Chris and Monica, handed over their tickets to be crossed off. Then Monica sipped at the tea.

'This is really good! It's kind of weird!' she said.

'I think it's one of the best things we've had so far!' said Chris, savouring both the truffle and the tea.

Browsing several other stalls, I made for the Pacific Puffs, enticing-looking light puffs filled with vanilla cream with a chocolate topping. Suddenly a man's voice buzzed my ear, like a mosquito on a fly-past. 'I'm burnt out!' he said.

I turned too slowly and missed him in the crowd, but his words were caught by David and Jennifer from near Sacramento who were joining the cream puff line.

'I'm feeling nauseous,' Jennifer said to David.

So you agree, you're burnt out too? I asked.

'We started off and we just ate everything in sight! It's delicious, it's hard to stop!' she confessed.

What did David think of the festival?

'It's very different to other festivals. It's very well planned,' he said.

People, it seemed, were groaning from chocolate and it was still only 1.30 pm. There were another three-and-a-half hours to go!

On a side of the plaza chairs were set out for free chef demonstrations. They were getting ready for Casey Thompson, Top Chef Season 3 Finalist. Music was playing and a couple who were still light on their feet were having a romantic twirl. They were Judith and Rico of Switzerland who had not been in the festival for long.

'We are here at a chance,' said Rico. They are spending three days in the city, part of a tour that takes in LA, Las Vegas and New York.

What did they think of the chocolate?

'Very good!' Rico whispered, so that Switzerland wouldn't hear!

They had brought Swiss chocolates with them as a gift for Judith's uncle who lives in San Francisco, 'but it doesn't seem to be necessary!' he said.

Pete's Gourmet Confections specialize in old-fashioned candies, particularly marshmallows. Set out on plates were pieces of brittle, chocolate-covered candied orange peel and pumpkin marshmallows. The marshmallows were different and very good.

Peter, whose company is in Oregon, was breathing a sigh of relief at the cool San Franciscan temperatures. He had been fearing a chocolate melt-down.

'I'm so happy it was cool today and a little overcast. They anticipated it was going to be 80 or 90 degrees today and I was a little nervous,' he said.

Ghiradelli Square is by far the largest chocolate festival that he attends. The average chocolate festival attracts about 8,000 people, he said, but organizers were expecting between 40,000 and 60,000 people over Saturday and Sunday.

Down below in the street, Cost Plus World Market, who are presenting the festival, had set up a marquee as a lounge. There you could select from a few choice wines and sit in comfort, nibbling on a few free chocolate bits.

A popular feature on the main stage was just starting, an ice cream sundae eating contest.

Six contestants lined up with hands behind their back and plunged their faces into stacks of ice cream. The winner, for the third year in a row, emerged with his face daubed with ice cream. Daniel Feldman is becoming something of a local celebrity.

How did he feel? compere Elizabeth, Miss San Francisco, asked him as he collected his prize,
'Numb in the face and gross in the stomach!' he replied.

'I just went for it. I'm pretty sure I won't be back here next year,' he said, but as an afterthought said that when he had recovered, he might change his mind!

Which seems to be the way of the festival: No more...well...maybe just one more!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Youngsters Pray for Victims of 9/11 at San Francisco Giants Ballpark

Members of a Sacramento church youth group travelled to the 9/11 memorial at the San Francisco Giants ballpark today to learn about the tragedy and to pray for the families of the victims.

'A lot of these students are very young and they didn't realize the full impact of what happened eight years ago,' said one of the youth pastors, Jared, as they stood at the Willie Mays Plaza. Around him were enormous banners bearing the names of everyone who died.

'There are families and groups of friends in mourning today. We just want to take time to pray for them, pray for peace out of respect for them,' he said.

'It was a huge impact on our country at the time.'

By now it was mid-afternoon, warm and sunny, and many people were pausing to gaze at the banners, take photos and contemplate. The banners were designed by the Giants and hung on the first anniversary as a public tribute to remember everyone who died. Some were Giants' fans. Many other fans were affected.

The youngsters were from an Assemblies of God church and just before had finished a scavanger hunt. They were resting among the banners. Then they gathered around Jared, who reminded them of the victims and those, like fire fighters, who gave their lives.

'We remember them - the victims - in our hearts and say a prayer for them,' he said, before encouraging the group to focus on the banners and pray.

Another of the youth pastors was Raul, a New Yorker whose family were touched by the disaster.

'The banners are a big deal because my family were all born in New York. My aunt and my cousin both worked near the World Trade Center. They both called in sick that day,' he said.

Twenty-five-year-old Randy, one of the older members of the group, thought the visit to the Giants' memorial was 'great'.

'There's nothing better than to bring back awareness to the day that shook our national history. The least that we can do is come together and pray for the families of the fallen people, the heroes that went in to save lives,' he said.

'I think it's a great honour that our youth group brought us here and we're able to do this.'

Eighteen-year-old Mondii said, ' It feels so unreal that it - 9/11 - happened. There's still so many families out there...this day, they remember what happened.

'It's for everyone to remember and not to forget. It changed our history.'

pics show: people clustering at the Willie Mays Plaza; the youth group stand to pray; Jared, center, in red and white checked shirt; Raul; Mondii and Randy

For more info on the banners:

9/11 'Ride with the Forty' Honours Heroes of Flight 93 at SFO

'Sobering, that's the word I'd use, and also fulfilling, to honour the Heroes of Flight 93,' said Maryland police sergeant Kenny Nacke at San Francisco airport at lunchtime today.

He was one of the organizers of a troop of hardy riders who'd arrived under police escort at the airport just after 11 am after a nine-day marathon of a motorbike ride from Newark's Liberty International airport that tracked the flight path of the 9/11 flight that crashed in Pennsylvania -see previous blog

The riders left at 8.42 am at what had been the scheduled departure time of the flight, though on September 3, and drew up at the airport at approximately 11.15 am at the time the flight had been due to arrive.

The bikers were welcomed in an open-air parking lot opposite the United Airways cargo facility, a short distance away from the airport terminals. Two hours later, about 20 riders and supporters went into the Reflection Room in the international terminal for a few moments of private contemplation.

The 'Ride with the Forty' was a tribute to honour and remember the 33 passengers and seven crew members on board the United Airways flight bound for San Francisco who bravely mustered a counter-attack against the terrorists. In doing so, they risked their lives, and as the plane plunged to the ground they are considered to have saved either the White House or the Capitol from destruction.

Among the sombre welcome party was Carol, sister of the pilot of the Boeing 757, Jason Dahl. Other people there had no personal connection to those who died but, like Tom and Faye, were there to pay their respects.

Carol and Jason grew up in San Jose, 'so this was home', she said of the airport and its environs as she stood outside the Reflection Room.

'I'm sure this was Jason's inspiration to becoming a pilot.'

Jason left behind his wife, Sandie, and son, Jason Matthew Dahl Junior who is now 23-years-old. Carol has kept in close touch with Matt and was thrilled that all her children took part in his wedding this summer.

'We will never forget Jason and we live with all the grand times we celebrated together,' she said.

Of Kenny and his cousin, Pat White, who coorganized the trip, she said, 'They did a great job.'

Kenny Nacke and his brother, Dale, were from a family of five boys who lost their brother, 'Joey' - Louis Joseph Nacke II. With cousins Pat and Dave, it was a family event on behalf of all the other families.

'It was miles of anticipation that left behind miles of great memories of good riders and great friends across 11 states,' said Pat.

'Some of it was a test of endurance, some was a test of driving prowess,' he said. Pat was the 'lead sled dog', driving a truck and towing a trailer, with Kenny's wife, Marci in the passenger seat. He was one of two truck drivers.

Driving trucks towing trailers 'required skill to stay together in formation, which by the time we hit urban traffic at Sacramento was very necessary,' he said.

Emotionally, it was 'bitter-sweet' from beginning to the ending but a ride that he was sure each one would remember.

Over the nine days, five riders travelled the entire journey, joined by many others in part along the way. With Kenny and Dale were Pat's brother, Dave, Frank Szczech, Erich Bay and Detroit Hank.

Pat is a tremendous example of the change that 9/11 has brought to people's lives. Everyday he works as a volunteer on the Flight 93 National Memorial putting in hours of work that if he was paid would run into 'hundreds of thousands of dollars.' Part of the ride today is to raise funds.

He is the man responsible for working with the National Park Service to finally purchase the land where the plane crashed. A sale only just completed.

A rider who accompanied them on the journey from Walnut Creek and to the Reflection Room was Gordon from the Patriot Guard Riders. The Patriots are a group of 90 per cent ex-military personnel who parade at the funerals of military comrades.

Gordon, now a federal police officer with the public Veterans Affairs, was a dog handler with the military police in the US Air Force.

'It's a duty to keep the memory alive,' he said, and a moving experience to watch today's group enter the Reflection Room 'knowing that you'd do the same thing if you were there,' ie on Flight 93.

After the reflection time, the group went down to a car park next to the terminal to keep their next appointment for another memorial event in Union City. Riders strapped on their helmets once more and mounted their bikes, drivers climbed into their trucks.

'It was beautiful. It was joyous, it was sad, it was difficult at times. It was everything I had expected and more,' said Dale. 'It's hard to imagine it's over now.'

And then they were off again with their police escort.

What would Joey have said if he was peeking over the parapet of heaven? I had asked Pat.

'You shouldn't have done it, but I'm glad you did. I'm proud of each of you and I'll love you forever.

'Thank you from "all of us" - knowing he was speaking of the forty,' said Pat.

pics show: the group entering the Reflection Room with Carol leading the way; the bikers preparing to leave the airport with Kenny Nacke on the far left, and Pat's truck behind; Tom, Faye, Erich, Pat; Gordon; Dale

Ride with the Forty on 9/11 to Arrive at SFO

A group of special bike riders are due to arrive at SFO in a couple of hours time, completing the journey of Flight 93 that never made it here on Sept 11, 2001.

The flight that took off from Newark Liberty International Airport bound from San Francisco was hijacked by terrorists and landed up in a field in Pennsylvania killing all 33 passengers and seven crew members on board. The four hijackers also died.

But not before the bravery of those on board had resulted in a fight-back against the terrorists that saved the plane from being flown on to a planned terrorist destination in Washington of the White House or the Capitol.

Today, brothers Kenny and Dale Nacke and their cousins Patrick and David White are leading the group of bike riders on the last part of the cross country journey from New York to San Francisco on the flight path of the United Airlines Boeing 757. They left New York on September 3 but at the original scheduled departure time of the flight at 8.42 am.

Kenny, a 48-year-old police sergeant from Maryland, was one of a family of five brothers. They lost their brother Joey - Louis Joseph Nacke II. Under the name 'Ride with the Forty', five core riders have taken nine days to complete the journey and have invited anyone who wants to, to join in with them.

They are carrying with them a portion of the temporary memorial from the tiny town near Shanksville, so that people along the route who cannot travel to Pennsylvania may have an opportunity to add their own tribute.

'We know this is not going to be an easy Journey, but to us, we know that Joey and the other 39 passengers and crew will be riding right along with us,' said Kenny in their press release.

'Like many proud Americans, we have great respect and gratitude for the men and women of United Flight 93. That's why we our setting out on this tremendous Journey in the Hope of Honoring and Remembering the men and women of United Flight 93 by raising awareness and funds for The Flight 93 National Memorial.

Can you imagine what our country would look like today, if the “FORTY” had not taken action and United Flight 93 had reached its target of the U.S. Capitol or White House?'

Their goal is to honour the Heroes of United Flight 93, to raise $250,000 for the Flight 93 National Memorial, to promote awareness to young and older Americans of the heroic stand against terrorism and to offer opportunity with the temporary memorial.

Gordon Felt is president of Families of Flight 93 and brother of Edward Felt, a passenger on the plane.

'I see the memorial 50 years from now as a place where schoolchildren will still be visiting by busloads, where people can go and hear a story about 40 very unique individuals that ... were able to band together and make a group decision to fight, to not sit back and let evil dictate the end of their lives," he says, quoted in USA Today.

'It could have been any of us, and we all hope that in the same circumstances any one of us could have stood up and said, 'No, this is not the way our lives are going to end.' '

For further info:

pics of Shanksville memorial of today and future plans taken from: