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UCSC produces a podcast about the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake

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Daniel J. Story is a second grader living in the Midwest when the Loma Prieta earthquake struck California on October 17, 1989. He remembers the news flashing in the news, and his teacher was concerned about the people she knew in the area.

But Story admits he didn’t know much about the disaster – including the fact that the epicenter was 7.1 in Santa Cruz County.

“I always thought it was the San Francisco earthquake of 1989,” Story said. “There are good reasons for this; it was the biggest loss of life there for sure. But not everyone knows it was actually the worst hit here.”

Story, Digital Grant Librarian at the University of California, is the producer of a series of new documentary podcast “Stories from the Epicenter,” which will be released in full on Saturday, October 17, the 31st anniversary of the earthquake. The podcast will consist of 10 parts, each focusing on specific areas and aspects of the disaster that left 63 people dead and 3,457 injured.

The project was formed after Story was commissioned to work on a special digital exhibition marking the 30th anniversary of the earthquake last year. It was directed towards a set of archived audio interviews conducted in 1990 by oral history students, who were asked to interview people about their experiences of the earthquake.

“It wasn’t a perfect fit for the show, but I found the interviews very compelling,” Story said. “I thought it would be nice to do something with them.”

He has a background in podcast, Story, who recently earned his PhD. They moved to the area and put together a small team of students to work on the project. It has also partnered with Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, Pagaro Valley Historical Society and Santa Cruz Public Libraries.

The story goes, at first, that the documentary will only be a few episodes long. But the more people he spoke to, the bigger the project.

“I was meeting one person and they’d say, ‘That’s a great idea. You should talk to this other person. And I couldn’t help myself … I think in the end, we ended up with less than 30 interviews – and those were just new interviews. “

In particular, an archival interview stood out. Barbara Garcia, founder of Salud Para La Gente, was recorded by a student in 1990. The “disguised” interview prompted the podcast team to dedicate an entire episode to Watsonville.

UCSF graduate Madeleine Maria Carbo led the episode, which delves into Watsonville’s complex response to the earthquake, with a focus on the Latinx community.

“After doing some research … it became really clear that Watsonville was the community affected the most, and that there is a more subtle story to tell,” Carbo said.

In addition to meeting Barbara Garcia, the team reached out to current Watsonville Mayor Rebecca Garcia, who remembered what she and others had been through in the days, months, and years after the disaster. The emergency response was unavailable, and an already severe housing shortage for the city’s immigrant residents was magnified.

“Barbara and Rebecca have spent a lot of their lives helping the community,” Carbo said. “I felt their frustration in dealing with the city and the county …. It was very difficult, like hitting their heads against a solid wall. But they were very loyal. They kept getting things done.”

Carbo said working on “stories from the epicenter” was a useful experience. She, along with digital scholarship student assistant Thomas Sawano, are the main co-producers alongside Story.

“It was very cooperative,” she said. “We all came from different backgrounds, and this was our first podcast project … but it came together well.”

A free launch event for “Stories from the Epicenter” will be held on Friday at 5:30 pm on Zoom, with moderated discussion, podcast clips and a question-and-answer session. Registration required and capacity limited.

Story admits there have been moments when he wondered if 2020 was the right time to release a podcast. The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted many local residents to make comparisons to the earthquake and its impact on society.

“Overall, though, I feel it’s very helpful to think about it,” he said. “You get a window showing how people are addressing these types of problems.”

“It’s a palliative in a way. We can look back and think,” It was horrible, but we got over it, “Carbo added.” I think we all need to remember that now. “

The first two episodes of “Stories From the Epicenter” are now available for broadcast on multiple podcast platforms. The last eight episodes will be added on Saturday. For more information, visit: guides.library.ucsc.edu/DS/DSC/Projects/Epicenter.

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