While multitudes escaped from toppling buildings and crashing walls in the dread disaster of that fatal Wednesday morning of April 18th in San Francisco, hundreds of the less fortunate met their death in the ruins, and horrifying scenes were witnessed by the survivors. Many of those who escaped had tales of terror to tell. Mr. J. P. Anthony, as he fled from the Ramona Hotel, saw a score or more of people crushed to death, and as he walked the streets at a later hour saw bodies of the dead being carried in garbage wagons and all kinds of vehicles to the improvised morgues, while hospitals and storerooms were already filled with the injured. Mr. G. A. Raymond, of Tomales, Cal., gives evidence to the same effect. As he rushed into the street, he says that the air was filled with falling stones and people around him were crushed to death on all sides.
Others gave testimony to the same effect. Samuel Wolf, of Salt Lake City, tells us that he saved one woman from death in the hotel. She was rushing blindly toward an open window, from which she would have fallen fifty feet to the stone pavement below. “On my way down Market Street,” he says, “the whole side of a building fell out and came so near me that I was covered and blinded by the dust. Then I saw the first dead come by. They were piled up in an automobile like carcasses in a butcher’s wagon, all bloody, with crushed skulls, broken limbs and bloody faces.”
These are frightful stories, exaggerated probably from the nervous excitement of those terrible moments, as are also the following statements, which form part of the early accounts of the disaster. Thus we are told that “from a three-story lodging house at Fifth and Minna Streets, which collapsed Wednesday morning, more than seventy-five bodies were taken to-day. There are fifty other bodies in sight in the ruins. This building was one of the first to take fire on Fifth Street. At least 100 persons are said to have been killed in the Cosmopolitan, on Fourth Street. More than 150 persons are reported dead in the Brunswick Hotel, at Seventh and Mission Streets.”
Another statement is to the effect that “at Seventh and Howard Streets a great lodging house took fire after the first shock, before the guests had escaped. There were few exits and nearly all the lodgers perished. Mrs. J. J. Munson, one of those in the building, leaped with her child in her arms from the second floor to the pavement below and escaped unhurt. She says she was the only one who escaped from the house. Such horrors as this were repeated at many points. B. Baker was killed while trying to get a body from the ruins. Other rescuers heard the pitiful wail of a little child, but were unable to get near the point from which the cry issued. Soon the onrushing fire ended the cry and the men turned to other tasks.”