SI rides the earthquake with no damage as seismic work progresses

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Shortly after a 6.0 earthquake shook the Bay Area out of its sleep on the morning of Aug. 24, SI’s Director of Buildings and Grounds Christopher Meehan walked through the school and saw that it had ridden the seismic waves without a crack or a scratch.

The next day, Lloyd Berges (pictured above) confirmed what Meehan saw. As superintendent for Plant Construction Company, the firm doing the $6 million seismic project, he knew that SI, given the strength of this earthquake, would have been fine even without the retrofit, thanks to the school’s long commitment to safety. The school was built to existing codes in 1969 and subsequent remodeling efforts incorporated reinforcements to the campus structures. The current work is being done in advance of new city codes.

He was pleased, however, that his workers finished the last of the major seismic work in the Student Center the day before the earthquake struck.

So, too, was Bobby Gavin, SI’s assistant principal for student affairs and the school’s point person on the project. “When I woke up at 3 a.m. Sunday morning to the earthquake, the first thing I did was check to see that my wife and son were okay,” said Gavin. “When I knew they were, I went back to bed and thought about the seismic work going on at SI and one of my mom’s favorite sayings: “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” We are fortunate to be taking on this work at this time, and our children’s children who attend SI will thank us.”

Berges and his crew, which includes 20 to 60 workers on any given day, worked long hours over the summer to ensure that the campus would be ready by the return of students for Freshman Orientation Aug. 17. Even with change orders, he expects the remaining work to be finished on schedule by Oct. 31.

Berges, who commutes each day from Discovery Bay to arrive at SI by 4 a.m., has been on the job since late May. In that time, he has gained a love for the school and its students. “I always seem to adopt the schools I work on, but this is place is special. I watch how students come in early to work before school begins and how they carry themselves and treat others with respect. It gives me a new hope for America’s youth.”

He also noted that the project has included several SI grads among the workers as well as Bernie Curran ’78, a senior building inspector for the city, who comes out to the school both to inspect the site and to drop off his daughter, Siofra, who just began her freshman year at the school.

“I also knew that we were blessed with divine intervention,” Berges said. “Our work on the chapel included a guy named Jesus working on the roof, another man named Jehovah doing demolition and a third guy, Moses, taping drywall. With that kind of manpower, I knew the chapel project would go smoothly.”

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