“I asked a man standing by me what had happened. Before he could answer a thousand bricks fell on him and he was killed. A woman threw her arms around my neck. I pushed her away and fled. All around me buildings were rocking and flames shooting. As I ran people on all sides were crying, praying and calling for help. I thought the end of the world had come.
“I met a Catholic priest, and he said: ‘We must get to the ferry.’ He knew the way, and we rushed down Market Street. Men, women and children were crawling from the debris. Hundreds were rushing down the street, and every minute people were felled by falling debris.
“At places the streets had cracked and opened. Chasms extended in all directions. I saw a drove of cattle, wild with fright, rushing up Market Street. I crouched beside a swaying building. As they came nearer they disappeared, seeming to drop into the earth. When the last had gone I went nearer and found they had indeed been precipitated into the earth, a wide fissure having swallowed them. I worked my way around them and ran out to the ferry. I was crazy with fear and the horrible sights.
“How I reached the ferry I cannot say. It was bedlam, pandemonium and hell rolled into one. There must have been 10,000 people trying to get on that boat. Men and women fought like wild cats to push their way aboard. Clothes were torn from the backs of men and women and children indiscriminately. Women fainted, and there was no water at hand with which to revive them. Men lost their reason at those awful moments. One big, strong man, beat his head against one of the iron pillars on the dock, and cried out in a loud voice: ’This fire must be put out! The city must be saved!’ It was awful.”
“When the gates were opened the mad rush began. All were swept aboard in an irresistible tide. We were jammed on the deck like sardines in a box. No one cared. At last the boat pulled out. Men and women were still jumping for it, only to fall into the water and probably drown.”
The members of the Metropolitan Opera Company, of New York, were in San Francisco at this time, and nearly all of these famous singers, known all over the world, suffered from the great disaster.
All of the splendid scenery, stage fittings, costumes and musical instruments were lost in the fire, which destroyed the Grand Opera House, where the season had just opened to splendid audiences.
Many of the operatic stars have given very interesting accounts of their experiences. Signor Caruso, the famous tenor and one of the principals of the company, had one of the most thrilling experiences. He and Signor Rossi, a favorite basso, and his inseparable companion, had a suite on the seventh floor and were awakened by the terrific shaking of the building. The shock nearly threw Caruso out of bed. He said: