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San Francisco One Year Later

Wednesday, April 17, 1907
The Year l, A. E.

It would be a shame to let the occasion pass without at least a word of recognition. Tomorrow will be the anniversary of the most memorable day in the history of San Francisco, and one of the most memorable days in the history of the world. However one looks at it, whether as an occasion of gladness or of sorrow, there can be no doubting the importance of the day that recalls the ordeal of earthquake and conflagration.

It is too early to say just what character the observance of April 18 should assume, since it is too early to say just what are the effects of that day. One thing, however, is indisputable, namely, that the affair of a year ago might easily have proved a thousandfold worse than it did. To say this of a catastrophe which completely destroyed four square miles of the most valuable property existing in any city of the same size throughout the world is to challenge the world’s doubt and criticism. When it is remembered, also, that over six hundred lives were lost in the disaster, it would appear that matters could hardly have been worse. Yet a moment’s reflection shows that the difference between the six hundred lives that were lost and the six thousand lives that might have been lost is mainly the difference between two or three hours either way in the time of the occurrence. The people of San Francisco can never be grateful enough for the fact that the choice of the fateful hour was not vested in themselves, but that, on the contrary, it was ordained by a kind and far-seeing Providence. Had the earthquake occurred at almost any other hour, the inevitable loss of life would have paralyzed the heart and tongue of humanity for generations to come. The immediate effects of the disaster have been beneficial in the main. San Francisco is today the busiest city in the world, and where that condition exists there is little time, and generally little occasion, for lamentation. On the whole, we think that the people of San Francisco are justified in looking with satisfaction, if not with pride, upon the events of the past year.

This is not denying that there are in the occasion elements that should inspire sober reflection. San Francisco has long been known as a “gay town.” Her people, having gained the reputation of liberality and light-heartedness, have possibly been too anxious to live up to that reputation and too careless of the methods adopted to that end. To put it frankly, and at the same time mildly, the people of San Francisco had fallen into an attitude of self-sufficiency and of corresponding indifference to the profounder considerations of life. The shake-up of April 18, 1906, caused at least a momentary change in this attitude. On that day many a man, and woman, too, found himself and herself face t face with a superior being and experienced a consequent chastening of the spirit. That sensation was valuable, if only by reason of its novelty, and it will grow in value in proportion as it is remembered and cherished. The people of San Francisco, strong and enterprising as they are, can not buy gain in the esteem of themselves and of the world by recognizing their dependence upon a power higher and greater than that of their own will.

We have said that San Francisco is now the busiest city in the world. It is also the most interesting. That city now presents a spectacle of recreation without parallel in the history of human endeavor. The task already well under way is that of creating a great city from a mass of unrecognizable ruins. That that task will be completed is beyond reasonable doubt; that the new city will be a larger and better one than the old is also a certainty. Well may the people of San Francisco consider themselves fortunate in that they have enjoyed, or suffered, as the case may be, an experience almost unique in the history of the world. Well may these people rejoice that they have been spared to take part in the greatest feat of human energy, a feat in which the pick and pinchbar are so many wands wielded by so many magicians, under whose hands the new city rises day by day. Well may the people of San Francisco say that, with all the terrors o a year ago no longer to be feared, they would not have missed the show for anything in the world.

As we look back upon the events of the year we are more and more impressed with a sense of the inadequacy of words to convey the feelings of that period. We can only repeat our first expression of helplessness, namely, that to adequately describe the events of that day one year ago, one must devise new words and one’s readers must be endowed with the new faculties of imagination. Some day a great poet, painter or musician, as yet mute and inglorious, will describe the scene in measures that will thrill the world as did the reality itself. Till then the affair of April 18, 1906, must remain in the category of things that are “more easily imagined than described.”

Coast Seaman’s Journal
May 8, 1907



San Francisco’s First Birthday

The city is now San Francisco is one year old to-day. There was a city of San Francisco a year and a day ago; an old city, as time runs in this new land; the embodiment of fifty years of stirring Western life; a fair city, a rich city, a gay city; set at the gate where the Farthest West meets the Farthest East, and sharing many of the characteristics of both; a loved city, whose generous faults are remembered with no less affection than its virtues. That city is gone, never to return. Its place is in history, and in the memories and affections of m en. One year ago the world woke up to learn that that city had been destroyed. To-day, the people of a new city already founded on its ruins, meet to celebrate their first anniversary.

It is characteristic of the new San Francisco that all its outlook, on this its natal day, is forward. There is little reminiscence and no vain regret of the past. Sinn Francisco points not to what was, but to what is.

In one year’s time, a miracle has been wrought. Discipline was restored in a day; orderly government was established in a week; relief was organized almost before there was hunger to assuage; reorganization was planned before the destruction was complete, and begun before the ashes had cooled; courage was never lost and the cheerfulness that had characterized the old San Francisco never abated. The shock that unroofed the homes also uncovered the hearts of the city, and brotherly love ruled in the lives of men. Only one brief, illuminating moment; but long enough to give us a sure courage, against all the discouragements and disillusionments that followed.

Energy and courage have restored San Francisco; the very immutable fates will preserve it. No disaster can destroy of minimize the importance of the gateway between the East and the West. San Francisco sites at the door of the Pacific, at the beginning of the Pacific age. The world looked inward on the Mediterranean once; then outward on the Atlantic; then inward on the Atlantic from both sides; and now looks outward on the pacific. The joining of the East and West has come, and the outstretched arms of both, reach through the Golden Gate. The warder of that gate sits at the strategic point of the immediate future. You can not set a city at the focus of all the streams of the world’s activity, and keep it small or unimportant. The greatness of San Francisco is as certain, under the conditions of the twentieth century, as was that of Constantinople under the Byzantine Empire. – Fresno Republican

Coast Seamen’s Journal
May 8, 1907