This year’s memorial to mark the 107th anniversary of the 1906 earthquake made history for different reasons than usual.
Most importantly, the memorial marked the first time there were no 1906 earthquake survivors in attendance. While centenarian survivors Bill Del Monte, Winnie Hook and Ruth Newman are all still living in the Bay Area, they decided this year to skip the 5 a.m. ceremony.
And can you really blame them?
Lee Houskeeper, an organizer of the memorial, told Bay City News:
“We’re absolutely thrilled we’ve had survivors with us for this long.”
And in another unusual twist, a suspicious package near Lotta’s Fountain on Market Street forced 250 revelers dressed in period outfits to move to Dewey Monument in Union Square. Police later determined the package was only a suitcase filled with clothes.
Both locations actually hold historical significance to the 1906 earthquake. Lotta’s Fountain was where thousands of displaced residents met in the days following the earthquake’s aftermath. And in Union Square, people lined up for food while The City took stock of the earthquake and fire’s damage. Houskeeper told SFBay:
“One of the things that is the beauty of this whole thing is that at exactly 5:11 a.m. we have a minute of silence and then we have all the sirens.”
Due to the last minute location change, they didn’t expect to have the sirens go off as normal, except somebody directed the police motorcycles onto the square where at exactly 5:12 a.m. the sirens blared loudly, marking the exact moment the earthquake hit. The crowd then belted out the City’s anthem, “San Francisco.” Houskeeper told SFBay:
“It was just as gorgeous as could be. it was same way we did it at Lotta’s Fountain.”
By 6:30 a.m., the group was using gold spray paint to coat the ceremonial fire hydrant at 20th and Church streets that saved the Mission District during the 1906 fires.
By then, the rising sun over The City signified the dawning of another new day for San Francisco.