Picking Up the Pieces

updated 10/22/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/22/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

They were the sights and sounds of a nightmare, forever etched into the collective memory: a car slipping into the chasm of a collapsed section of the Bay Bridge; the screams of a child trapped in the rubble after Interstate 880 buckled and caved in on itself; fires raging through the Marina district in the very heart of San Francisco. Today, a year later, one need only glance around the Bay Area to see the lingering aftereffects: boarded-up city storefronts and houses yet to be set back on their foundations; displaced farm workers in neighboring communities sleeping in trailers for want of affordable housing; the woman now eking out a living at a food stall in Santa Cruz after losing her restaurant—and her life savings—to the fault line.

The earthquake of Oct. 17, 1989, was not the Big One that Californians have been told to expect, but it was big enough. The 15-second, 7.1 Richter nimbler left 63 dead, more than 3,000 injured and some $6 billion in damage. Harder to measure, but no less widespread, was the psychic shock suffered by all of those whose lives were touched by the quake, and by their distressing knowledge that no one and nothing—not even the ground beneath their feet—could be counted on to remain always stable.

Nonetheless, Bay Area residents have not only made it through the year but have gone briskly about the business of mending their lives, buoyed by their individual hopes and their strength as a community. They have already filed $550 million in applications to the federal Small Business Administration to rebuild homes and businesses. The city of San Francisco has expanded its fleet of fireboats, fire trucks and ambulances, and neighbors have come together to form volunteer fire corps, the better to be prepared for the next emergency. What follows is a look at some of the quake's survivors—their memories, losses and dreams. "Life goes on," says San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos. "But like any painful experience, it stays with you and you deal with it. No one has forgotten the earthquake—and no one will ever forget it."

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