SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The lone survivor of the Great Quake of 1906 who attended Friday morning's commemoration arrived in style, riding in an immaculate vintage car and spinning stories of the cataclysmic event.
More than 100 people, many dressed in period clothing, joined Herbert Hamrol, 105, for the pre-dawn ceremony at Lotta's Fountain, the downtown landmark where San Franciscans gathered after the
magnitude-7.8 quake to look for lost loved ones.
Hamrol braved the morning chill in the back seat of an antique black Lincoln, recalling how he was 3 years old when the quake struck and remembers his mother carrying him out of his family's crumbling flat.
"You're not going to get an earthquake every day. So we celebrate the one that we had," Hamrol said. "It was a beautiful earthquake, if you want to look at it in the glorious way."
Mayor Gavin Newsom laid a wreath on the fountain and observed a
moment of silence for those who died in the temblor, which struck
at 5:12 a.m. on April 18, 1906.
Donna Huggins, the mistress of ceremonies, said there are probably at least a couple dozen survivors still living. But interest in organizing and attending the commemoration waned after the blowout centennial event two years ago, when nearly a dozen survivors made it to the ceremony.
Hamrol, who still works twice a week at a grocery store, has been the only survivor well enough to attend since then.
So when the centenarian decided he was up for going again this year, Huggins said she was too.
"Can you imagine how guilty I felt? More than twice my age and I'm almost thinking about not going," Huggins said of her conversation with the energetic elder.
Hamrol said he'd continue the tradition next year as well. "God willing, I will," Hamrol said.
Later in the morning, about two miles away at Dolores Park, locals added a new coat of paint to one of the few fire hydrants that remained functioning to help douse the blazes that consumed the city after the shaking. Small children and fire department veterans took turns adding a fresh coat of gold spray paint to the well-weathered hydrant, aptly known as "the golden hydrant."
Friday's commemorations followed a new study released this week,
saying that California faces a 99.7 percent chance of having a
magnitude-6.7 temblor or larger by 2037, renewing calls for quake
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)