I remember it as being the morning of Harold Huang's birthday party when I was 10 years old, but that's probably not how it happened. Maybe it was because other significant events also happened on the mornings of birthday parties. My hamster, Rusty, died on the snowy February morning of Jimmy O'Connell's bowling party. I had a lovely black box to place him in, but no argument I could muster would convince my mother that Rusty would make a good gift for the birthday boy. (Though I liked Jimmy, he had given me a lame-ass Ziggy for my birthday though no one any of us had ever met had ever given any indication that Ziggy was the least bit interesting, let alone worthy of memorialization in doll form. Hence, my insistence...well, that and an already dark sense of humor. It was a bowling party after all - we could put Rusty in his hamster ball and let him do what he loved most.) Rusty was interred that morning under a snow-flecked honeysuckle bush.
Anyway, early on the morning of what may or may not have been Harry's birthday, New York was hit with an earthquake. Long Island did not face the full brunt of the quake. The epicenter was located north of the city, specifically in Ardsley, NY, forty miles outside on Albany. It was about a 4.0. No biggie. Shook for less than a minute. The house shimmied a bit, but no damage was done other than me waking up. Occasional unspectacular quakes such as this one will insure that the Dobbs Ferry Fault will never stand with San Andreas or New Madrid in the Who's Who of American Faults. Still along with plotting the fickle meanderings of Hurricane Elena on my stash of Publix Hurricane Maps hoarded during an otherwise brutal summer trip to Florida and sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for the Tropical Update on The Weather Channel (49 mins. after the hour) for a full week and a half as Hurricane Gloria honed in on, and eventually struck, Long Island (all three events occurring in 1985), this temblor set me off on a life long love affair with natural disasters.
I write this now because today is the 100th anniversary of the Great San Francisco Quake which set off the Great Fire of San Francisco which, in turn, decimated the Great City of San Francisco. I don't want to end by saying "Happy Anniversary San Francisco." Something, I'm sure, isn't right about that. I'll just stick with "Rest in peace, Rusty."
The Streets of San Francisco
Hurricane Gloria as she turns north
The hamster to play Rusty in the TV movie