Tales From the Field: San Fransisco

NHNZ Awards Cabinet"On October 27th 1989 a magnitude 7.1 earthquake shook San Francisco, fans at the World Series in Candlestick Park watched in horror as masonry rained down, motorists slowed to a halt as a section of the Oakland Bay Bridge collapsed and somewhere amongst all this chaos there was a bar, with a security camera recording the event.

A small number of cameras recorded images of the earthquake that day but the bar footage provides perhaps one of the most dramatic scenes, the bartender racing away from the shaking till and towards the camera as bottles fall and smash behind her.

Such images of natural disasters occurring were of course exactly what the MEGA DISASTERS team wanted, but the bar security footage remained elusive. The usual and likely suspects, ITN/Reuters, NBC, CNN, ABC, NatGeo and the various local news broadcasters in San Francisco, all had a copy of the famous footage, and some had broadcasted it at the time, but none of them knew who owned it or were prepared to sell it to me.

Then another documentary that had used the footage fell into my lap. The list of footage suppliers in the credits offered no surprises, ABC, CNN, NBC, KRON, KTVU, Eric Chun, wait a minute … Eric Chun doesn't start with a K, who is he? With no other lead I made it my mission to find out who he was and what footage he had contributed, on the off-chance he knew something about the security footage.

I was quickly dismayed to find out how many E.Chun's there are in the State of California and had almost given up when one last Google search dragged up something of interest, a review of a San Francisco bar which mentioned in passing how the previous owner had started the bar 20 years ago and his name was *drumroll* Eric Chun.

A few minutes later I was talking to first a waiter at "Adam’s Apple Grill and Bar" and then the manager who passed on to me the cell phone number for Eric Chun who had since retired from business. Whilst driving a bus on the highway somewhere near San Francisco, Eric Chun was kind enough to take my call and confirm that he was once a bar owner and yes, his bar was hit by the earthquake, and yes … sitting at home he had the videotape from his security camera which was rolling on October 17th 1989."

Adapted from a story written by Lemuel Lyes, for the NHNZ in-house magazine, December 2005. Lemuel is a free-lance researcher, who has gained a reputation (not surprisingly) of finding the exact shots required at the right price. MEGA DISASTERS was a series 4 x 60min made for National Geographic Channel.