The Loma Prieta quake gave me a good shake in my third-floor office in Sacramento, more than 100 miles from the epicenter. I arrived in San Francisco a couple hours later, watching houses burn in the Marina from the Golden Gate Bridge.

But the quake story I remember best came two days later when I got a tip that 16 children who had suffered serious injuries in the catastrophic Armenian quake less a year earlier were in San Francisco for medical treatment, having arrived just in time for another quake. I met two of them at the old Shriner’s hospital, where they talked about the quake at home that killed 25,000 people and the one they had just experienced.

They were sweet kids, it was a nice day and their stories of survival were a welcome change after a couple of days covering the worst of the damage in the Bay Area. Here’s the top of my Oct. 20, 1989 story from the Los Angeles Daily News:


SAN FRANCISCO – Hermine Menjelikian and Mher Pekhlivania were sitting in their classrooms in Soviet Armenia 10 months ago when the walls collapsed on them in a massive earthquake that killed at least 25,000 people.

On Tuesday, they were in San Francisco when the earth again shook violently. They were at the Shriner’s Children’s Hospital being treated for bone and nerve damage suffered in the Armenian quake.

None of the 16 Armenian children who were brought to the Bay Area Oct. 1 for medical treatment was injured Tuesday, and only an 11-year-old boy was emotionally traumatized by going through a second disastrous quake.

“I told him not to worry,” Mher, 13, said in Armenian through the interpreter. “These are very strong structures, not like the ones back home. But he said (about the house where he is staying) ‘It’s going to fall on us, it’s going to fall on us.’ ”

“I thought earthquakes don’t happen here,” Mher added …


A great laugh line from a 13-year-old kid who had seen some frightful tragedies.

– Jim Sweeney