As they have for 110 years in a row, residents and emergency crew members met early Monday morning at Lotta’s Fountain in San Francisco to mark those who died and suffered during the great quake and fire on 1906.
Except this year was different.
It was the first time that no original survivors were left.
The death of Bill Del Monte earlier this year at age 109, marked the end of the last 1906 survivor — an inevitable page turning in the long tale of the Bay Area’s most famous catastrophe.
Still, a sizable crowd gathered at the gold fire hydrant that marks the historic quake. Some came dressed in early 20th century garb, to listen to firefighters and politicians speak of the devastation and heroism. A total of 3,000 people died in that quake, and 80 percent of San Francisco was destroyed by the fires that raged for days. It's remembered as one of the worst and deadliest natural disasters in U.S. history.
Melissa Geissinger of Santa Rosa came out bright and early because her great-grandmother lived during the quake, and she remembers hearing stories about her having to live in a tent city when she was just 6 years old.
"All of that inspired me to write historical fiction loosely based on her," Geissinger said. The event was even more meaningful to Geissinger, since the last 1906 earthquake surivor died. "It's up to us, the younger generation to carry this on. It was a real big part of our history."
In addition, those who gathered at 5:12 a.m. to mark the exact time the 7.8 quake hit on April 18, 1906 in San Francisco, also took time to note those who have recently suffered in Ecuador and Japan. In Ecuador an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 struck Sunday, with the death toll rising past 350.
And in Japan, two earthquakes struck last week, with magnitudes of 7.0 and 6.2, that killed 35 people and injured nearly 200.