West Oakland residents remembers collapse of Cypress Freeway 30 years ago

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- It's been 30 years since the 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake-- 63-people died and more than 3,700 were injured and the damage added up to more than $6-billion.

One of the most memorable sights was the damage done to both the Bay Bridge and the Cypress Freeway.

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Retired Oakland Deputy Fire Chief Mark Hoffman was a Lieutenant, slicing a tomato at Station 1, when the ground began to shake. He ran outside in time to see.

"Telephone poles moving-- and street lights go up and down."

That was the fury of the Loma Prieta earthquake that struck 30 years ago Thursday. In just a few minutes, Hoffman and the rest of Oakland would realize its deadly consequences.

On Thursday, Oakland held a ceremony remembering the 30th anniversary of the collapse of the Cypress Freeway-- a double-decker section of the Nimitz Freeway running south from Interstate 80 near the Bay Bridge to Interstate 880 at 7th Street in West Oakland.

There were 42 people killed when the upper section pancaked down onto the lower deck.

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The ceremony was held in the Cypress Freeway Memorial Park not far from where the structure used to stand. Mayor Libby Schaaf told the assembled crowd, "While we remember those who were lost, we honor those that protected life and those who came together when they did not have to and answered the call to help their fellow Oaklanders."

The Deputy Chief and his crew were first to arrive at the collapsed free and immediately put a ladder and immediately began the grim process of triage-- determining which of the injured could be treated and who was beyond help.

"I felt my best role was to birddog and go from collapsed section to collapsed section to get an assessment on how many bodies needed to be rescued," he said.

Locals in the Mandela Park neighborhood also lept into action helping rescue people from the debris, and turning off gas to lessen the risk of fire. But to many in West Oakland, the Cypress Freeway was nothing but an eyesore.

Many opposed it before construction, and others worked hard to make sure that it wasn't rebuilt in its previous configuration.

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Neighborhood pressure made sure the replacement wound around instead of over the area. Residents like Wilfred Harvey says they feel more like a part of Oakland now.

"We couldn't see that we had a city here-- we couldn't see the Tribune Tower, we couldn't see the City Hall, we didn't know where we were living on this side of the freeway."

Take a look at ABC7's in-depth coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake here.
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