Shakedown + 20: Remembering the Big Loma Prieta Quake. Today's Edition: Aaron Peskin Returns to the Scene of the Crime, Dooming Each and Every One of Us.

Categories: Local News
Long, long ago in a monarchy far, far away...
For Part 1 of this retrospective, click here to read my own mother's account of getting out of her car and running like hell when the Bay Bridge partially collapsed.

The ostensible purpose of this series is to recount longtime locals' harrowing tales of how they cheated death on Oct. 17, 1989 when the Loma Prieta earthquake ravaged San Francisco and the rest of Northern California.

So when we heard that local boy made good Aaron Peskin was a scant 7,613 miles away in Kathmandu, Nepal we figured his story wasn't applicable here.

And yet, we were wrong. The former Board of Supervisors president's earthquake story was shockingly San Francisco-centric for a man who spent the day in the heart of the Himalayas. 

Aaron Peskin
On Oct. 17, 1989 the 25-year-old Aaron Peskin was on vacation from his job obtaining acreage for the Trust for Public Land in far-off Nepal. In fact, he was on his very first date with Nancy Shanahan. And as they ascended the five stories to the roof of the hotel they were staying at, Peskin couldn't help but attempt to impress her with a quip: "Here we are, Top of the Mark."

A nearby man soon shattered the mood. "You from San Francisco?" he asked, cued in by Peskin's reference to the Mark Hopkins Hotel. When the couple nodded he bluntly informed them that "There's just been a huge earthquake there. The Bay Bridge fell down."

"I said, 'Yeah, right buddy. And my name's Jesus Christ.'"

Of course it turned out the guy was right -- though Peskin is not named Jesus Christ.

The bearer of bad news hailed from Philadelphia and had spent much of the day on the phone with his sick father. Sick dad mentioned that, an hour earler, the Oakland A's-San Francisco Giants World Series game had abruptly gone off the air because of a massive quake.

Worried now, Peskin hustled down the stairs and invested a small fortune in placing a phone call to his brother, Victor, in Santa Cruz. The tinny voice on the other end of the line ominously noted "The 408 area code does not respond."

Over the next couple of days, Peskin watched from afar as San Francisco smoldered. The newly minted couple returned to the Bay Area in November -- two days after the Bay Bridge was repaired. Truly, they had missed the whole event.

Charmingly, come Oct. 17, the Peskins will, once again, be at "The Top of the Mark" in Kathmandu, recreating their first date. Incidentally, it will be Peskin's 11th trip to Nepal. Apparently he enjoys going for long walks in the mountains. You could do worse than Kathmandu.

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