Check out this amazing video of San Francisco just after the 1906 earthquakes hit!

ELIZABETH PERCER

NOVELIST, POET, EDUCATOR

Author's Note


Even today, the specter of April 18, 1906 looms large over the city of San Francisco. I turned to it many times while conducting my research for All Stories Are Love Stories. And the more I delved simultaneously into San Francisco's demise in 1906 and its current circumstances, the more I was struck by how vulnerable the city still remains to the very things that destroyed it 110 years ago. After all, it really wasn't the earthquakes alone that caused the most destruction and loss of life -- it was the fires and the winds and the lack of water and the urban congestion that, individually, might have been surmountable, but collectively formed an army of natural and environmental forces that could not be overcome. 


At first, I thought my research would serve to quell my fears. That the firemen I spent the day with up at Station 42 in Nob Hill would laugh at my fictionalized scenarios; in fact, they told me, it might be even worse. I hoped that the Stanford and Berkeley geologists I consulted would reassure me that living in the Bay Area in the 21st century made one generally impervious to anything more than earthquake-related inconveniences; I was left hoping.


Eventually I couldn't help but come to the conclusion that, if anything, San Francisco is even more vulnerable than it was in 1906. The population at risk is larger and the city has never been more crowded. Advancements in retrofitting and building techniques fuel a false sense of security, as a city is only as defensible as its weakest structures when the fires that come when power lines are downed and gas lines are broken seek their fuel. Furthermore, water sources are at an all time low for a city that has never been more densely inhabited. 


As a resident of this area -- I live about five miles east of the epicenter of the first quake in the book -- one might think that I chose to see this book to its end because I have a perverse curiosity about my own mortality.


I do. But not in the way you think.


I wrote this book in large part because I needed to understand why I was making a life for myself and my family under the ominous shadows of 1906 and its lingering threats. And somewhere along the way, I realized the parallels between our situation out here in the Bay Area and the global situation at large. None of us are safe, really. All of us face imminent violence and threat at any given moment. And isn't it remarkable that we love and live so vibrantly even so?