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Repost: On this day in history

This one was originally posted in 2009.  I noticed the date this morning, and had an almost identical post written when a little voice told me I’d already told this story.  So instead of a reboot you get a rerun.


In 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake struck San Fransisco. Damage was heavy, and there were a few casualties.

At the time, I was in the final days of basic training. That means no contact with the outside world that my leadership didn’t provide. No newspapers, no CNN.

So we were unaware of what had happened.

At morning formation the day after the earthquake the senior drill sergeant stepped out and shouted:

“Are any of you brain dead individuals from the San Francisco Bay Area?”

I and about 10 others raised our hands. I’m not from the Bay Area, but my family moved there a couple of years previously and I’d finished out high school.

“There was a massive earthquake last night. San Francisco is in flames. Your families are all dead!”

Of course, that caused quite a stir. We were reminded not to talk in formation when 3 or 4 guys got dropped for pushups after they said some variation on “Oh,crap”.

“All of you guys from San Francisco have 15 minutes to call home. Move!”

Of course, all the phone lines into the Bay Area were down or busy, so none of us had any luck. This did nothing to ease our worries.

Luckily, the chaplain took pity on us when he found out what had happened, and he contacted the Red Cross to contact our families and make sure they were OK.

Noone lost anyone, so it ended up being no harm no foul.

However, if I ever have to break bad news to someone, I’ll use that as an example of what not to do.

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