07/22/07 - posted by Frank Dunnigan
THE EARTH SHOOK, THE SKY BURNED by William Bronson, is an excellent 1950s photo & narrative recap of the disaster of 1906. It's one of the oldest volumes in my bookcase, having been received while I was still in grammar school. DENIAL OF DISASTER by historian Gladys Hansen & former Fire Chief Emmet Condon, and published just prior to the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, is a sobering look at our present-day risk, in light of all that has gone before. Thanks to the persistent research of Hansen, the offical death toll of the 1906 earthquake and fire was officially re-set by the 2005 Board of Supervisors at approximately 4,000, almost ten times the "official" number of 478 that the 1907 Board had confirmed. DENIAL OF DISASTER also discusses the emphasis that was placed on "The Fire", with little or no reference to the earthquake that precipitated it--an apparent attempt by the politicians and real estate promoters of the day to downplay the earthquake, and to emphasize the fire--a more common form of disaster that could be readily understood by everyone in the country. By doing so consistently, it made San Francisco seem no more prone to disaster than other American cities such as Baltimore and Chicago that had experienced devastating fires prior to 1906, from which they recovered quickly.
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