When I wrote Love From The Ashes about seventeen years ago, I’d never experienced an earthquake. So how was I going to understand what the heroine in the book felt in 1906 San Francisco? I’ve got an enormous imagination so that obviously helps. Second, I researched and studied about earthquakes for quite some time before writing the book. Here’s a snippet of what the heroine, Grace Wyne, experiences when of the biggest earthquakes in U.S. history happens in 1906.
As Grace stepped out of the boarding house and walked the few steps to the Studebaker, she took in the sounds of early morning. Few people were up at this hour. She saw the lone figure of a man walking down Valencia Street away from her and toward Market.
The air was still, but cool.
Grace paused, listening.
She heard dogs barking, and the whinny of an agitated horse. Brushing away an odd, inexplicable uneasiness, she turned the ignition on the auto, then moved to the front and cranked the Studebaker to a start. As Grace climbed into the auto she thought about everything that had happened in the last few hours. Another strange apprehension came over her.
Would she ever see Nate again?
She couldn’t regret making love with him. Taking his body into her had brought her a joy she never could have imagined. But Grace couldn’t force Nate to love her, any more than she could force herself to love Chauncey.
More than once she had almost said the words to Nate as his body had come into her again and again.
I love you.
How long had she denied intellectually what her heart had known? Perhaps she was a coward for running away while he lay sleeping.
As she pulled away from the Bijou Boarding house, the auto jumped ahead, coming up behind a team of four horses pulling a wagon. Yet her impatience had nothing to do with wanting to get home. No, Grace planned on driving about the quiet city until the bustle of the new day propelled her back to Nob Hill. She needed time to think.
She glanced toward the Berkeley hills to the east and saw the sky lighten to a clear blue. It looked like it would be a beautiful day.
Suddenly the streetlights dimmed and went out.
Grace slowed the auto in reaction, though the morning light was enough to see by without the streetlights and the headlamps of the Studebaker.
The wagon in front of her slowed and the horses whinnied, shying to the side.
Curious, Grace glanced at the clock on the side of a barbershop as she passed. Five twelve precisely.
A second later she heard the rumble, like distant thunder growling and growing under her feet, menacing above the noise of the automobile engine. She looked up Valencia Street toward Market Street, confused. Were there train tracks close to the area?
At first Grace thought she’d become dizzy, for the auto swayed under her grip, the steering wheel wrenched from her hands for a horrifying second.
As the terrible thunder roared in her ears, she saw the street ahead undulate like a snake, rolling up with great violence like waves off the ocean. The shuddering earth danced, wrenching sidewise, then back with a demented motion that increased with every second. Then the insane earth changed direction, swaying the automobile on its tires. Over the noise of rending and tearing and tormented ground, she heard a church bell pealing. Grace thought she might be caught in an endless nightmare where the earth bucked and shook like a wild horse.
The horses screamed as the wagon driver tried to control the frenzied animals. The automobile’s forward momentum had slowed considerably, but had not stopped.
She was going to hit the wagon.
As Grace slammed on the brakes, the violent tremor came to a sudden halt.
The Studebaker slammed into the back of the wagon, flinging Grace headfirst into the windshield. Incredible pain flashed through her head. As dawn threatened to fade into night, she felt the earth revive its demonic quiver, a violent pulse that sent entire walls into the street, crashing all around her. The creaking and roaring of buildings being ripped apart united with rocking earth to form a horrifying symphony.
Tall buildings swayed like insane dancers in a macabre play. Through the terrible cacophony and destruction, she heard screaming, pleas of the dying mixing with the terror of those believing it might be Judgment Day. She had a second to glance at the man in the wagon and saw the panic in his face.
Grace looked up and saw a cornice begin to crack on the five-story building next to her. Part of the building gave way, and she screamed as it fell on the man and his horses, crushing them beneath rubble.
With her last ounce of strength Grace threw herself from the auto as part of the wall descended and hit the Studebaker. Her world went silent and black.