On Oct. 17, 1989, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake rocked the Bay Area. The Loma Prieta earthquake -- named for the peak in the Santa Cruz mountains near its epicenter -- interrupted the "Battle of the Bay" World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics and caused 63 deaths, thousands of injuries and plenty of damage.
In honor of the 30th anniversary of the earthquake, the Los Altos History Museum is presenting the exhibition "Our Community Prepares: Acts of Nature, Then and Now," which educates visitors about the local aftermath of Loma Prieta and other disasters, the expansion of emergency-preparedness programs and ways to prepare for the future.
Museum curator Amy Ellison and City of Los Altos Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Ann Hepenstal co-curated the exhibition to reflect the stories of those affected by disasters in the Bay Area and inspire visitors to plan for potential situations.
"I'm a historian and trained to think about the past, while Ann is a preparedness expert and trained to think about the future," Ellison said. "We brought our different perspectives together for this exhibit, which looks back at natural disasters that have happened here in the past, while also looking forward to how we can get prepared for the next one."
The first section of the exhibition describes the history of emergency preparedness and improvements made through local volunteer-run organizations, including block action teams, community emergency response teams and ham radio operators.
The effects of natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods and wildfires are explored in the second section. Diagrams in this area illustrate where many fault lines are located throughout Northern California and explain why earthquakes happen. It also features stories from locals on how the Loma Prieta earthquake affected their lives.
Los Altos Hills residents Bridget Morgan and her daughter, for example, had been making applesauce before the Loma Prieta quake hit (pictures of the earthquake damage in their kitchen are posted in the exhibition). Out of fear, Mara Bronstone, Morgan's neighbor slept in her van on the night of the earthquake. As they went through the ordeal of rebuilding their homes after the earthquake, Morgan and Bronstone grew closer and have maintained a close 30-year friendship.
Los Altos resident Linda Janus needed help getting her two stores Cooks' Junction and Janus Fine China cleaned up after the earthquake. Downtown Los Altos shop owners and city officials met at Heintzelman's Bookstore the day after to discuss rebuilding. Strangers became new friends when New Zealand resident Dave Green stepped up to assist Janus with the clean up for the next three days of his trip to the area.
"We're so grateful that members of our community were willing to tell us about their experiences during Loma Prieta; it wasn't easy for them to relive those memories and it's not easy to hear about them either. However, it's important that we don't forget, that we remember both the damage that it caused, as well as how the community came together to recover and rebuild," Ellison said.
First responders are the focal point of the third section, which shows how the community relies on the work of firefighters, law enforcement, emergency medical services and backup support from the American Red Cross.
The fourth section demonstrates how visitors can take action and formulate an action plan for natural disasters. Information about how to build a home emergency kit and "go bag" for family and pets is included. Visitors can see sample emergency kits in the center of the exhibit.
Children can learn about how to assist their families during a natural disaster and dress up like emergency professionals or the exhibit's resident superhero, Ready Girl.
"Ready Girl helped save her family during Hurricane Sandy and since then she's become dedicated to teaching other kids how to get prepared," Ellison said.
In a series of free workshops in conjunction with the exhibition, visitors can learn how to further protect themselves and also experience a mobile earthquake simulator called The Big Shaker. According to the museum's website, the simulator can recreate the shaking of an earthquake up to 8.0 magnitude.
Ellison and Hepenstal hope that the exhibition will motivate visitors to take action and ready themselves for any emergency situation.
"By learning the stories of past disaster events in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, visitors learn that the risks are real," Hepenstal said. "Seeing the local impact of disaster events is very powerful. I'm hoping that everyone who visits the exhibition leaves with at least one item they will do immediately -- even simple steps like stopping at the store to buy more emergency supplies of water or sitting down with their family to review local maps and write up a family evacuation plan."
Freelance writer Chrissi Angeles can be emailed at [email protected]
What: "Our Community Prepares: Acts of Nature, Then and Now."
When: Through Jan. 19, 2020, Thursdays-Sundays, noon to 4 p.m. Workshop schedule and registration info is listed online.
Where: Los Altos History Museum, 51 S. San Antonio Road, Los Altos.
Info: Go to Los Altos History Museum.