Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mandela Parkway memorial

On October 17, 1989 a 7.0 earthquake struck the Bay Area.  While most of the country remembers how it disrupted the World Series and closed the Bay Bridge, locals remember the destruction of the Cypress Structure.  The Cypress was a double deck freeway section running through West Oakland physically dividing the community and bringing incessant noise and chemical pollution.  It was a poor and industrial neighborhood that got little attention or support.  The earthquake caused the freeway to collapse, ultimately killing 42 people.  This simple sculpture, standing on the parkway that replaced the freeway, memorializes that event.

The first responders were neighbors who ran out with every manner of ladder cobbling together scaffolds trying to reach people trapped in their cars.  The air was thick with concrete dust that impeded both light and breathing.  Their bravery and selflessness were incredible.
After much debate and community resistance to a new freeway, it was decided to replace the freeway with a parkway.  So many years later the Mandela Parkway seems a graceful stretch of open sky, sun, and green.  The park that runs down the center of the street goes for several blocks covering the distance of the old freeway.  The day I was there people were driving, walking, biking, and skateboarding down the street and the pathway had runners and bench sitters enjoying the sunny weather.  The community is still poor but now it feels like it's on the upswing.


  1. Thanks for the reminder and uplifting true story. I like the sculpture too, tasty.

    ALOHA from Honolulu
    =^..^= . <3

  2. That was an amazing stretch of rescue. Heroes were everywhere!

  3. I was a kid when that quake happened, but I still remember it- 1989 was a pretty momentous year, after all.

  4. I remember seeing the horrors on TV! What an improvement to the area.

  5. It seems like yesterday and it was shortly after my sister moved back to the eastern side of the country. What a horrible day that was and yet the heroes emerged. I drove across the new bridge about a month ago and felt a pang for the tragedy that started the construction.

    Thanks for reminding us.


  6. I remember the pictures of that disaster. Frightening!
    And I just read that the San Andreas Fault is moving alarmingly.