Town Crier: Finding out about Oakland firestorm unforgettable

MONTCLARION: October 7, 2011

Like the Kennedy assassination and 9/11, most of us remember where we were when the Oakland hills fire broke out.

I was in Minneapolis covering the World Series, and watched reports of the blaze on a lone TV in the pressroom. I remember Oakland A’s Manager Tony LaRussa saying he might go back early, and that’s when I realized my home and family were in danger.

Back in Montclair, my husband was hurriedly packing a bag and carrying our 20-month-old daughter out to the car. The cat was nowhere to be found, so they took off and drove to a friend’s house in San Leandro.

Meanwhile, phone lines were jammed, and I was frantically trying to find my family from the Metrodome, halfway across the country. It made for an anxious few hours as I went about my work of covering the World Series for KSFO radio.

In the end, the worst urban fire in U.S. history never reached our neighborhood, but as I flew over a landscape of black smoke and red flashes, I was overcome with sadness. Twenty-five people had died and hundreds had lost their homes.

As Oakland prepares for the 20th anniversary on Oct. 22, a Facebook page ( has been set up for survivors to share memories and photos, and at 10:30 a.m. the bells will toll for the people who lost their lives on this fateful day. For a list of events marking the anniversary, see BEAT: Police are reminding us to beware of our surroundings — especially when we get in and out of our vehicles. There was an attempted carjacking two weeks ago at Thornhill Drive and Mountain Boulevard — just one of several recent reports of crimes being committed in broad daylight here in the hills. The criminals are getting more brazen, and we need to be on guard.

GOOD KARMA: Three local women are offering their services at a free retreat for breast cancer patients this month. The Oct. 22 retreat at the Hills Swim & Tennis Club is in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and includes a morning meditation overlooking Mt. Diablo, a Pilates class run by Pink Ribbon Certified instructors Barbara Hoffer and Therese Brewitz, and a nutrition seminar with holistic nutritionist Helayne Waldman. Call the Hills club for more information at 510-339-0234.

POIGNANT ART: Speaking of 9/11 and its aftermath, Oct. 8 is the last day to view an exhibit of art made out of items confiscated from San Francisco International Airport. The work is the brainchild of Montclair artist Michele Pred, who got permission to collect pocketknives and other confiscated items back in 2002. It’s on view at Jack Fischer Gallery, 49 Geary St. in San Francisco and you’ll find more information at


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