The Corner

Different Time


Subject: SF earthquake

Some years ago I had a patient who had been in San Francisco on the morning of the quake. He was quite a guy and had been traveling alone around the country at the age of 15. That morning he was sleeping in a rooming house room with two other men when they were shaken out of bed. They went downstairs to the street and could not see anything for the brick dust in the air. They went back up to the room and collected their gear once the shaking stopped and walked across the city to see the sights. They stowed their gear for a while in a tavern and when they came back, it was locked up and a fire was headed that way. They asked a policeman if they could break in and he gave them permission since the tavern would be destroyed in a few minutes. They got their gear and for a while sat in Union Square and watched the buildings on three sides burn. It was a week before he could get out.

When he was my patient he was 88 years old (I can’t do the math at the moment) and had a painful aneurysm of the aorta. I fixed it and he went on his way.

Imagine asking permission to break in to a locked building to get your own belongings. A different time.

Rich Lowry — Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: 

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