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Drawing of Bear

The Dominant Thought

As the various impressions and shocks succeeded one another, there always came in the interim the dominant thought of the California Insurance Company. This thought again became uppermost and I concluded to at once get in touch with the president. I proceeded by devious ways over bricks, past wreck and ruin, through the stunned and gaping crowds, until I reached the St. Francis Hotel where he resided, and finally found him in the lobby, which was packed by an excited throng of humanity. If ever the St. Francis needed the S. O. S. sign, it was the morning of this day. Everybody in the hotel must have been, with others, in the lobby.

The president was in his usual hopeful and optimistic frame of mind. He had no fear whatever but that the fire would be shortly under control. How this was to be brought about, he could not tell, but he was perfectly satisfied that it would be done. I looked at the man in wonder and admiration. Such colossal optimism was superb. To expect from fate what appeared to me to be the impossible was indicative of a hope sublime. I envied such a nature. It was not only a great asset but was also a great solace in the face of an unprecedented disaster. But he had not been where I had been nor had he seen what I had seen.

Then my thoughts turned toward home and my depression increased almost to despair as I walked past the wreck and ruin and through the crowds who themselves were fleeing in indescribable habiliments and with all sorts of futile treasures grasped in their hands.

No water! Little, if any, police protection! In fact, nothing, apparently, except Divinity itself, to prevent the conflagration from finally burning to the ocean. A most sublime tragedy! It meant the impoverishment and lack of homes to thousands; it meant the sweeping away of accumulations of years of endeavor; it might mean starvation; it meant beginning again to climb the uphill trail to success; and last, but worst, it meant the tremendous death toll either from immediate causes or from after effects. Even today, years after the conflagration, many men and women live in San Francisco in a greater or less degree of ill health, the seeds of which were planted by the terror and mental strain which they endured on the morning of that day.

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