San Francisco’s annual remembrance of the 1906 Great Quake was forced to move early Thursday from Lotta’s Fountain to Union Square because of a bomb scare, officials said.
A four-block area of downtown San Francisco was cordoned off after a man in a hooded sweatshirt was seen walking away from a suspicious package near the intersection of Third and Market streets at 2:47 a.m, according to police.
The area was reopened around 5:18 a.m., but not before the ceremony had been moved to Union Square.
Each year, sirens sound and a ceremony is held at 5:11 a.m. at the fountain which was a gathering place for survivors following the 1906 earthquake and fire that devastated San Francisco.
However, it was the first year that there were no survivors in attendance, according to Lee Houskeeper, an organizer of the event.
Bill Del Monte and the other two survivors, Winnie Hook and Ruth Newman, chose to sleep in rather than wake up early for the event, Houskeeper said.
"We're absolutely thrilled we've had survivors with us for this long," he said.
The pre-dawn ceremony is just one of several events held to remember the earthquake.
At a luncheon Wednesday, Del Monte, who was born in San Francisco three months before the quake, held court with Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, greeting well-wishers who came up to talk to him.
"I'm still here," he said. "They're having trouble getting rid of me."
Del Monte recalled the city a century ago when "there were horses and wagons on Market Street, not cars."
Houskeeper said the events surrounding the anniversary serve as a reminder that "it's not if, but when the next big one will hit us."
On Thursday, city officials will also take part in the annual painting of the fire hydrant at 20th and Church streets that helped to save the Mission District following the quake.
Watchdogs are questioning an exclusive agreement between the City of Oakland and a non-profit group, tapped to lead a multi-million dollar project to redevelop the area around the Coliseum BART station.