“I have seen this whole, great horror. I stood with two other members of the Examiner staff on the corner of Market Street, waiting for a car. Newspaper duties had kept us working until five o’clock in the morning. Sunlight was coming out of the early morning mist. It spread its brightness on the roofs of the skyscrapers, on the domes and spires of churches, and blazed along up the wide street with its countless banks and stores, its restaurants and cafes. In the early morning the city was almost noiseless. Occasionally a newspaper wagon clattered up the street or a milk wagon rumbled along. One of my companions had told a funny story. We were laughing at it. We stopped—the laugh unfinished on our lips.
“Of a sudden we had found ourselves staggering and reeling. It was as if the earth was slipping gently from under our feet. Then came a sickening swaying of the earth that threw us flat upon our faces. We struggled in the street. We could not get on our feet.
“I looked in a dazed fashion around me. I saw for an instant the big buildings in what looked like a crazy dance. Then it seemed as though my head were split with the roar that crashed into my ears. Big buildings were crumbling as one might crush a biscuit in one’s hand. Great gray clouds of dust shot up with flying timbers, and storms of masonry rained into the street. Wild, high jangles of smashing glass cut a sharp note into the frightful roaring. Ahead of me a great cornice crushed a man as if he were a maggot—a laborer in overalls on his way to the Union Iron Works, with a dinner pail on his arm.
“Everywhere men were on all fours in the street, like crawling bugs. Still the sickening, dreadful swaying of the earth continued. It seemed a quarter of an hour before it stopped. As a matter of fact, it lasted about three minutes. Footing grew firm again, but hardly were we on our feet before we were sent reeling again by repeated shocks, but they were milder. Clinging to something, one could stand.
“The dust clouds were gone. It was quite dark, like twilight. But I saw trolley tracks uprooted, twisted fantastically. I saw wide wounds in the street. Water flooded out of one. A deadly odor of gas from a broken main swept out of the other. Telegraph poles were rocked like matches. A wild tangle of wires was in the street. Some of the wires wriggled and shot blue sparks.
“From the south of us, faint, but all too clear, came a horrible chorus of human cries of agony. Down there in a ramshackle section of the city the wretched houses had fallen in upon the sleeping families. Down there throughout the day a fire burned the great part of whose fuel it is too gruesome a thing to contemplate.
“That was what came next—the fire. It shot up everywhere. The fierce wave of destruction had carried a flaming torch with it—agony, death and a flaming torch. It was just as if some fire demon was rushing from place to place with such a torch.”