The Day the Earth Shook

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October 17 isn’t one of those dates that hits you with the same sort of recognition that you get with some of our calendar’s more infamous inhabitants, like September 11 and December 7. But for the people who live in and around the San Francisco Bay Area, October 17 is a special date.

At 5:04 p.m. on October 17, 1989, a 7.1-scale earthquake shook coastal Northern California for 15 seconds. It caused massive damage as far as 70 miles away and killed 66 people. Many people around the country recall the Loma Prieta earthquake because it interrupted the start of game three of the 1989 World Series between the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants.

Sixteen years later, the effects of this earthquake are still apparent throughout the Bay Area. Just today, a monument to the collapsed Cypress Freeway and the 42 people who perished as a result of its collapse will be dedicated. And right out my window, a second approach to the Bay Bridge is being constructed — and the old approach is being demolished — in the latest in an endless series of earthquake-retrofit projects to hit San Francisco.

But for the Mac community, the Loma Prieta quake took two victims in particular. John J. Anderson and Derek van Alstyne were editors at MacUser magazine in 1989, based out of the magazine’s offices in Foster City, south of San Francisco. On October 17, they had come into the city for a meeting to discuss the online future of MacUser and MacWEEK . Although I never met them, I have it on good authority that J.J., the veteran editor, and Derek, the young rising star, were bright people with great futures ahead of them, forging their way into a new future of editorial content online.

Would they be blogging today? Sadly, we’ll never know. The pair were killed in San Francisco, two of the two dozen deaths to occur outside of the Cypress. In their honor, MacUser created two special Eddy Awards, the John J. Anderson Distinguished Achievement Award and the Derek van Alstyne Rising Star award. Over the years, numerous Mac luminaries won these awards, including Bill Atkinson, Steve Capps, Jef Raskin, Rand and Robyn Miller, Peter Lewis, and Raymond Lau.

Time moves along, and after MacUser magazine was integrated into Macworld the Eddy Awards changed and the special awards faded from view. But as we work on this year’s edition of the Eddys — on this beautiful, sunny October 17 — I think it’s worth remembering J.J. and Derek.

Loma Prieta was a huge natural disaster in 1989; between the tsunami, the gulf-coast hurricanes, and the earthquake in south Asia, we’ve seen more than our share in the past year. In the names of the victims of all these disasters, I encourage you to give to the Red Cross.

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