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FAMOUS LANDMARKS CAME THROUGH `PRETTY BIG ONE’ UNSCATHED

SHARE FAMOUS LANDMARKS CAME THROUGH `PRETTY BIG ONE’ UNSCATHED

Alcatraz isstill standing, as is the Coit Tower, Nob Hill, Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf, Lombard Street, the corner of Haight-Ashbury, Golden Gate Park, the TransAmerica Building and Union Square.

Even so, it's hardly business as usual for San Francisco and San Franciscans in the 48 hours since the earthquake some nicknamed "The Pretty Big One" had struck."The Pretty Big One" - a 7.0 on the Richter scale that hit at 5:04 p.m. Tuesday night - is distinguished from "The Big One" - the 8.3 temblor that hit San Francisco in 1906.

According to seismologists here, on the Richter scale, an 8.3 equals the energy of approximately 32 7.0 quakes.

The quake of 1906, then, remains the measuring standard, a Mike Tyson to a Mike Spinks; and, clearly, that was fine with the Bay area Wednesday and Thursday. This latest one left enough of a calling card as it was.

In the city, however, major destruction was nonetheless minimal. A far cry from the 500 city blocks that were swept into a dustbin 83 years ago. With the exception of homes sitting on unstable landfill in the Marina area, west of Fisherman's Wharf, virtually all buildings were intact - a testament to modern architecture and in striking contrast to 1906, when the buildings that didn't fall down burned down.

Still, most all businesses kept their doors closed - and didn't plan to open until Friday. Power was out most of Wednesday, particularly in the downtown area. Only hotels and other service-type businesses were open. Many of the hotels offered free food and drink - hospitality that was not only seized on by guests but by street people as well. It can be hard to tell a bona fide paying customer and a street person in a buffet line lit by candles.

Signs of the quake were everywhere. At the exclusive Union Square department store, I. Magnin, most of the 128 large pane-glass windows blew out during the quake, leaving the streets below littered with glass and the building above well air-conditioned. At the Pacific Gas & Electric Building, the large window in the entrance was shattered - as if PG&E, with a city out of power, needed that extra aggravation.

At St. Peter's Church on Mission Street, a sign on the door said, "No Mass Today."

There were holes in roads and cracks in sidewalks, and at the Southern Pacific Company Building on Market Street, many of the gothic-like pillars had cracked and partially crumbled - making it precarious to get past the police barriers and to the Bank of America's Versateller cash machine under the overhang. But not too precarious.

Scary stories:

- Benjamin Young, a worker at Candlestick Park, had volunteered to climb a light pole to unhook a decorative Giants banner that had gotten tangled with a light. He was 100 feet in the air when the earthquake hit. He grabbed the pole like a magnet. "I just hung on for dear life," he said.

- Bruce Stephan, a 33-year-old engineer returning home to San Francisco on the Bay Bridge, was on the upper portion of the bridge precisely at the moment it collapsed onto the lower portion. His car dangled off the bottom deck, hanging halfway over the sea far below. He climbed out a window and escaped. "This is my second life," he told newscasters.

Heroic stories:

- Dozens of firefighters at the Nimitz Freeway disaster in Oakland climbed through narrow openings, saving lives in a concrete tomb that threatened to collapse further at any moment.

- In the closed-down San Francisco Airport, passengers in the United Airlines terminal helped deliver a baby Tuesday night.

You're-Not-Going-To-Believe-This stories:

- A housewife from Marin County had a fantasy fulfilled when, while shopping at the aforementioned I. Magnin, the glass started flying and they locked her in the fur vault, with all the furs.

These and other stories surfaced and resurfaced in the aftermath of the earthquake.

No doubt they'll persist for some time, as will all other details of the earthquake of '89.

As the tragedies and deaths are being absorbed, so are the triumphs, not the least of which is the fact that all of San Francisco's aforementioned landmarks are still standing - untoppled, unfazed and unrazed.

If it was noted once in the hours after the quake, it was noted once a newscast: "The Golden Gate Bridge suffered no damage."

The bridge that launched a million postcards, the bridge that San Franciscans like to say is the most structurally perfect in the world, the bridge that is this town's logo, came through without a scratch. Now that's something to remember an earthquake by.