Bomb scare disrupts SF's annual Great Quake ceremony

April 18, 2013 12:00:37 PM PDT
San Francisco's annual 1906 Great Quake commemoration was disrupted by a bomb scare Thursday morning. A security guard found a suspicious package on Market Street before the scheduled start of the traditional event at Lotta's Fountain, forcing organizers to temporarily move.

Tradition was derailed for a bit at the fountain where, for the past 107 years, survivors and locals alike have gathered to remember the Great Quake. They gathered in period costume to commemorate the anniversary. But getting to that traditional gathering spot was impossible.

San Francisco police shut down Market Street near Kearny around 3 a.m., investigating a suspicious package left on the sidewalk. The tip came from a security guard. The bomb squad was called in to investigate. They later determined the item to be a harmless bag of clothes.

"We want people, when they see something, to say something," SFPD Chief Greg Suhr said. "We're absolutely happy that they did, we shut down the area."

It made for a lot of confusion about where the quake ceremony would be held.

"We came all the way from Orange County, and we're all dressed up," OC resident Carla Sirabian said. "We were a little upset, and then we found out it was here."

The event was quickly detoured up to Union Square where the traditional remembrance wreath had a new home.

"So we decided, with a crowd of nearly 200 people, to relocate it up here and still commemorate and celebrate what happened here in our city 107 years ago," SFFD Chief Joanne Hayes said.

Hours later, tradition back on track, folks paint a fire hydrant gold a 20th and Church streets. It's nicknamed 'Little Giant' because it was one of the few working hydrants in the city, which saved the Mission District from ruin after the quake.

San Francisco resident Rick Pogorzelski says he never misses the anniversary. The morning's disruption was not enough to change his plans to honor his ancestors.

"My great great grandmother died in the earthquake," he said. "And it's just a way to remember that, and not let it go."

The ceremony at Union Square still came off at 5:12 a.m., when the quake hit.

This was the first year that quake survivors did not attend the ceremony. We're told they decided to sleep in.

For tips on how to prepare for the next big earthquake, click here.


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