The date: April 18, 1906. The place: San Francisco, California.
It was a day like any other. The fishermen were preparing to sail off to get the morning catch, the factories were filling the air with black smoke, and desperate gold prospectors were sifting through the beach sand, still trying to find a precious nugget after all these years. And then, at 5:12 A.M. a massive earthquake suddenly occurred. The people there were somewhat familiar with the concept, having experienced others before, but nothing like this one. The earthquake is believed to have been around 7.8 on the Richter Scale, and could be felt all the way to Los Angeles.
A common misperception is that the forty-two seconds of shaking was the main problem. This was not the case. Though it is true that the unexpected rapid movements caused a number of the taller buildings to collapse, or at least be damaged in some way, the consequences from this weren’t really all that bad (relatively speaking.) What was bad were the horrible inferno that began to rage out of control as a result, traveling rapidly through the neighborhoods and burning pretty much everything within the foggy city to a delectable crisp.
The army was called in to assist with the fires, and they had to dynamite numerous buildings in order to divert the path of the flames. They were also authorized to kill anyone found in the act of looting or committing a crime during the disaster. Jaywalking, suffice it to say, dropped to its lowest level in years. It would take a full decade for San Francisco to rebuild, and the city would never be the same. For one thing, hey constructed far fewer buildings out of brick, and they now had to build everything to code. The Transamerica building, for example, goes as deep into the earth as it is tall (853 feet.)