‘You’re helpless’: Man recalls being on the Bay Bridge as the Loma Prieta earthquake hit

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(KTXL) -- On Oct. 17, 1989, disaster struck.

The 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake rocked the Bay Area, killing 63 people, destroying thousands of homes, toppling the Cypress Freeway in Oakland and taking out a portion of the Bay Bridge.

“If the suspension joints on the bridge had been half an inch shorter, I bet you that bridge would have gone,” said Magne Veimoen. “It was scary. It was scary.”

Veimoen was on both the Cypress structure and the Bay Bridge that day and somehow made it home.

“I went to the Cypress structure and I got to the toll gate and there was nobody there,” he told FOX40. “The toll taker at gate number 20, him and I were chatting probably for close to a minute because there was nobody on the road. And the last thing I told him before I left, I said, ‘I feel like I'm going to my own funeral.’”

Veimoen said it wasn't long after he got on the Bay Bridge when it felt like he suddenly had four flat tires. Then he heard a loud bang.

“We got a big aftershock when I was right on the middle of the high-rise and that bridge was swinging. I was scared. I didn't know what to do,” Veimoen recalled.

He said a million things were running through his mind, so he used his car phone to call his daughter to try to calm himself down.

“Oh my God, oh my God. It's like if you're in a war, you have a gun but you have no ammunition. You're helpless, you're helpless,” he said.

Veimoen said while talking to his daughter, she explained how she had just heard on the news that a portion of the bridge had collapsed.

“That’s when I really got scared because was it behind me? Was it in front of me? I really did not know,” Veimoen said.

Veimoen said he just kept driving on the bridge and was able to get off on Grand Avenue in South San Francisco. He eventually made it home safely.

“I was just focusing on the road to get home to my family,” he told FOX40.

Despite living through the terrifying earthquake, Veimoen said he is not worried about the next "big one" and still commutes out to the Bay.

“Thirty years later and I'm still here.”

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