October 17 always has an ominous ring to it, because of the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 (or “the big-enough one“). In Oakland, we were distant from the epicenter, which is just visible on a clear day in the mountains beyond San Jose. But it was on this spot where the double-decker Cypress Structure, part of the Nimitz Freeway, felt its soft ground give way and collapsed, the deadliest single place in the whole disaster. I remember riding BART into the Oakland West station (remember when they called it that?) and sensing the whole carful of riders hold its breath as the wreckage came into view.
It was an ugly, traumatizing mess for years and years. In 2005, when I took this photo from the BART station on January 28, the Mandela Gateway complex at the base of Mandela Parkway was new, landscaping along the road was under way, and the area seemed nearly finished. But if you know where to look as you ride west from the downtown stations, you can still see the curved trace of the old freeway in the lines of the buildings and lots. Earthquakes are forever.