October 17th, 1989
Candlestick park was alive and glowing. The Giants for the first time in 22 years are the hosts of the World Series. He was lucky enough to have season tickets that year, great seats over the visitors dugout. They met their friends before the game, had a tailgate party. Ribs, beer and the World Series; it was going to be a night to remember! He brought his nephews, 12 and 14 yrs. old. As a child he had always remembered baseball. A child's fantasy played by men, he hoped to bring his memories of the 68’ Tigers to his nephews. He had listened to the that great 68’ team with his grandfather. Baseball was gentle, a constant you could always count on. Wars and revolution, but there was always baseball. He walked to the entrance to the bleacher seats on the way to his white wine seats; the day was hot and still. As he put his foot on the first step, he lost his balance. A rumble overhead stopped the escalator above.
Strange he thought, he hadn't been drinking that much. Coincidence? He regained his footing only to hear the roar of the stadium crowd. A game like this, he thought it must be someone streaking the crowd. He ran to the top of the steps only to be rushed by 30-40 people leaving the stadium. He thought that to be odd. There was nothing on the field; what caused this commotion? He came to his seats and was curious as why people were leaving. The beer line was empty, he bought a couple for the game. The stadium was beautiful as it's ever been, banners draped, flags flying; the park never looked better. He came to his box seats ready for the night of his life, only everyone was standing; what was the commotion?
At 5:05 an earthquake struck the San Francisco Bay area. He didn't feel a thing. Confusion loomed. What happened? His friends saw a wave cross the outfield, they too were in shock. A message came over the radio; the Bay Bridge had collapsed! Shock struck him as he realized his wife and children should have been on that bridge. He needed to get home. He took his nephews and joined the largest traffic jam he had ever seen. The CHP was directing all cars south, the freeways were closed. Slowly, the cars filed through the projects, north of the park. Two hours after the quake, they approached an intersection by the projects. As he stopped, a van cut across the front of his car, its occupants filing out quickly.
Six men with pistols circled his car. His initial thought was Undercover cops, except they displayed no badges. One man put a chrome .45 to his temples and said give up the car!”. He found himself and his terrified nephews 3 blocks away. His shoe's we split, the impact from running, his legs in pain from shin splints. They recovered, found a friend from the game, and made it to his office. The events prior almost a blur. Later, he found his wife and children, they were fine. They had come home early from the lake in Berkeley, they were not on the bridge. He felt they all had cheated death. Survived the chaos and the quake. He was grateful. He felt lucky.
Erik Henriksen was a Harvard lawyer. Once proclaimed to be one of the most promising young attorneys in the country. He had decided to practice in Oakland, a place where people needed an ally. An undeveloped, depressed city that appealed to Erik's sense of justice. He could have made six figures on Wall Street, instead, he struggled for the people of Oakland. Eric was his attorney, the President of his rugby club. Erik's legal advice was not motivated to make money, but to solve the problem and save his young client the expense. In conversation with Eric, he would say John, who ever told you life was fair?” Fatherly advice from a man not more than two years older than himself. He listened, and knew that Erik was right. On October 23rd at 4:50pm, six days after the earthquake, he talked to Eric. “Well it's getting late, I need to get home”. Eric said.
“Going home to see my new son; he was 5 days old. Take care “ he said, as he thought about getting home to see his own 5 month old son. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow. He was the last person to ever talk to Erik Henriksen alive. Eric walked out of the rear door of his office at 5:02pm. He was met by 3 men hiding in the bushes. They robbed him of $3.45. In the process, one grabbed a garden utensil, and ripped the larynx from Eric's throat. He died in his own blood from suffocation.
He stood at the funeral in the Oakland hill, watching the body of Eric being lowered into the ground, Erick's son, held by his young, new widow. Unable to think or function, he had only one thought, a biblical thought at that; There, for the grace of God, go I”. He went home, hugged his son, wept.