Before the earthquake, After the earthquake: 1906

Steve Su, guest writer

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April 18, 1973,
“Grandma, I’m here! What are we going to do today?” Anna said.
“‘When it’s gone, then you will understand what is gone.’(Ni) Oh! Today is a special day; I’m going to tell you guys a true story, and I will explain the quote later. Everybody come to the table.”
“A special story! Mom have I heard it?” Cora said, whose husband was with her.
“No, you have not. Come have a seat, and David, you will want to listen to this.”
January 1, 1906,
“Mom! Dad! John! Happy New Years! I’m so excited; 1906 will be so much fun.”
“Hanley, go back to bed. It’s only 7:30 AM,” Dad said.
“Your bed is so soft and big! Come on, wake up!” Hanley said as she jumped on the bed.
“Hanley, go take a nap. We have long day ahead; we are going to Chinatown and you will love it,” Mom said.
“Ok.”
12:00AM
“Chinatown! We are here! Wow, it’s beautiful!”
We pass through the chinese gate and into the red wash of Main Street. Strings of lanterns hang above us, lighting our passage. To the left, a glaring neon sign blinks on and off, while on the right, pagoda roofing and latticed woodwork adorn an otherwise nondescript building. This is Chinatown.
“Mom, why are there no Americans here?”
“Because Americans think Chinese are an ‘infamous race’. They even call Chinatown a ‘cancer in the heart of the city,’ but don’t be disappointed, because one day China will be one of the strongest countries in the world.”
“Do you hear that, Hanley and John?”
“Yup, I hear drumming, let’s go check it out,” I said.
I was so excited, and I ran ahead into the crowd, of course John followed me.
“Wow! Is that a dragon? They are dancing!” I said.
“I’m scared, Hanley, let’s get out of here!”
“No, John, look this, is it cool? Don’t be a scaredy-chicken.” John and I got pushed to the front, but I was so focused that I forgot about my parents. John started to enjoy the show.
“Where are Dad and Mom?” John asked after the show.
“Umm… I don’t know, it’s ok they are probably just joking, they will come find us.”
My hand began to tremble.
“Come on, John, stay with me. We are going to ask someone for help.”
“Ok, but what if they left us?”
“No, they didn’t, they would never leave us alone. Let’s go ask the police officer.”
This policeman look especially white, almost the whitest person I have ever seen. He was sitting on a chair, trying to take a nap.
“Excuse me sir, can you help us?”
“What do you want kid? Do you not see I am busy?”
“I lost my parents. Can you help me, or were you about to take nap?”
“You! Huh…” He rolled his eyes at me and mumbled under his breath, then slowly stood up. I thought he would help me.
“Do you see the store across the street? Go inside and find the old Chinese man named Lao Wang; he will help you guys.”
Seeing John’s hand shaking, I placed it in mine.
“John, I know where they are, ok? Trust me.
We were standing in front of the store, on the door there were some weird pictures and words. I don’t know if I should go in. Right before I take my fist step, I felt someone pulling John. I turn back.
“Dad!”
“Little girl and boy! You two really scared me.”
I jump on him and kiss him.
“Where is Mom?” John asked
“Oh that crazy woman thought you two could find the way back. But I strongly disagree with her way.”
April 18, 1973,
“Wow grandma I can’t believe you actually went into that weird store.”
“Ha! I did.”
“What was the inside of the shop like? Did you find Lao Wang?”
“That store was a tattoo store, and we didn’t find Lao Wang; I am guessing that police officer just wanted to get rid of us, so he lied.”
“Mom, you said I have not heard the story, but I have,” Cora said.
“Just be patient.”
April 18, 1906, 5:11 AM.
I wake up to get some water, gently at first, and because I’m half asleep and I think, “A tremor, cool!” I was so naive. I sat up to check the clock. It’s 5:12. I feel the floor is shaking harder now, and I try to stand. But something pushes backwards. My house comes alive, like an angry animal. The air filled with the sound of crumbling concrete rumbling and moaning, and the sharp sound of metal. Around me, the picture was crashed to the ground; the drawers opened and closed. Panic almost stole my breath. I screamed “John wake up!” He slowly sat up. I grabbed his hand and started running toward the door. I felt something heavy crash near my head. While I was running with John I felt a burst of power rushed over me. My dad pushed John and I out of the way just in time. I heard a crash behind me and whipped my head around just in time to see a huge rock in the place my father used to be. I fell on the floor as the world slowly faded away. That was the last time I saw my dad.
I slowly opened my eyes, but seventy percent of my body was pressed under a big rock. I was screaming and trying to get some attention.
“Mom! Dad! Help me! Mom!” I picked up small stone, and started hitting the floor.
“I’m Hurt! I’m Hurt! Mom. Dad. Help me. ” A very small voice came from the left.
“John? Is that you?”
“Mom. Dad. Hanley. Help me… Hanley? Hanley! Hurt! My arm is bleeding! Help me.” He started crying and screaming at me.
“John, stop and listen to me!” I yelled.
“Hanley! Where is Mom!”
“John! Listen to me, it’s going to be ok. I believe mom is on her way here.” But those words were only to comfort John. It was very dark under the big rock.
Two hours passed. The rock on top of me started to shift, I saw a ray of sunshine beside my hand.
“We found two children! Everyone come here!”
“A boy and a girl!” A woman who heard it, started running towards this way.
“Hanley? John? Is that you?”
“Mom?”
“I’m here, it’s me, Mom is here! Thank God! Please help me get them out! ”
“Wait, I think they are under the same cement slab, we will try our best,” After an hour, Mary was faced with another challenge.
“Mary, you have to decide between the two,” a men who was helping with the earthquake said. For a long time she didn’t say a word.
“They both are my children, they both have to live!” She said.
“Mary, why are you so stubborn? Listen to me, if we pry John’s side, then Henley will get crushed by the cement board. But if we pry Henley’s side, then John will get crushed by the cement board. The kids can not hold on much longer.”
Mom started crying. I had never see her cry before. She cried like a little baby, so helpless, so much pain, and so desolate. But no one seemed to care. After few minutes, she finally made her decision.
“The boy.”
A few hours later, I woke up on the floor. Around me, there were many dead bodies neatly arranged on the floor. I would soon be one of them. Surprisingly, I hadn’t died yet, but my leg was hurting. All around me, the buildings had either fallen over or had been smashed. Since then, I have never seen John or my mom again.
“I can’t walk anymore.” I fall on the floor again, and this time I can’t get up anymore.
“God, please, please help.” I slowly closed my eyes.
April 18, 1973.
“What happened?” Cora asked
“The doctors saved me.”
“Why did your mom choose your brother over you?”
“Because in our society, men are more value than women.”
“Knock knock”
A man with one arm walks in.
“Can I finish the story for you?”
“Who are you?” David asked.
“I’m John Liu.”
Works Cited
“Historical Events in 1906.” OnThisDay.com. n. d. Web. 23 January 2018.
Ni Zi, “Tang Shan Da Di Zhen, m.lz13.cn/jingdianyulu/7244.html, 16 May 2012.
“The Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.” U.S. Geological Survey. n. d. Web. 23 January 2018.
Bobek, Milan, Judith C. Callomon, and Samuel J. Patti. Decades of the 19th century: 1900’s. Eldorado Ink, 2005. Print.
“My Earthquake Experience.” The Globe and Mail. n. d. Web. 6 February 2018.
“The Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.” U.S. Geological Survey. n. d. Web. 6 February 2018.
Bibliography
“1900: A Year in the Life of America.” genealogy.com. n. d. Web. 6 February 2018.
Earthquake Shaking – Accounting For “Site Effects.” n. d. Web. 6 February 2018.
San Francisco Earthquake, 1906.” National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives and Records Administration. n. d. Web. 6 February 2018.

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “Before the earthquake, After the earthquake: 1906”

  1. Katie hallock on February 28th, 2018 2:38 pm

    I loved the story because it was unique. The time stamps and switching between the years 1906 to 1973 added another dimension. The history of how america viewed immigrants from china and how the Chinese culture valued men over women was also interesting. You also had a phenomenal vocabulary. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story!

  2. David Austin JR on March 15th, 2018 2:22 pm

    Nicely done Steve. A nicely pieced story with a very tough decision. I liked how John came back at the end. The mental pictures of the areas within Chinatown were great and the references to social views on Chinese immigrants were well placed.

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Before the earthquake, After the earthquake: 1906