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Two Who Were There - 83 Years Ago With AM-SF Quake Bjt

October 20, 1989

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Elsie Keating was seven and remembers ″the city was in flames. We were all sitting on the sidewalk.″

Virginia Allen Cotter was 19 and recalls that ″all the chimneys had fallen down. The front of the houses had fallen down, too, so that you could look upstairs and see right into the bedrooms.″

Both survivors of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake were still living in the Bay Area when Tuesday’s devastating temblor struck.

″This was a really heavy one ... (but) 1906 was the worst one,″ Mrs. Keating, 91, said Wednesday from her daughter’s house in suburban Concord, where she was recovering from injuries suffered Tuesday.

″There was no water, no medical care,″ she said of 1906. ″We are all advised to go to higher ground. I was seven. You didn’t know where to run.″

Not that Tuesday’s experience was much less terrifying.

″I was sitting in a rocking chair. It started to swing and sway. Finally it gave a big jolt ... like a ship on the sea,″ she said.

Mrs. Keating fell from the chair, hurting her wrist, fingers, knee and leg. Her screams alerted the manager of the senior citizen’s apartment complex, who helped carry her to bed. She spent the night without electricity in a dark, frightening city.

″It was horrifying. Every two hours, an aftershock. A fear, a terrible feeling, to think everything will be destroyed.″

Mrs. Cotter, 103, said, ″This one felt longer, but not quite as sharp,″ while the 1906 temblor ″seemed more jerky.″

When she was awakened by the ’06 quake, ″Everyone was in the streets. The men were in their nightshirts. When we went back in the water and gas were cut off. The pipes had been injured. Our chimney had collapsed, too. We went to downtown Oakland later, and we saw all the chimneys had fallen down.″

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