On April 18, 1906 at 5:12 a.m., the barely half-century-old city of San Francisco experienced a major earthquake the likes of which we have not felt in the 110 years since. And this morning, as is tradition, history buffs, relatives of survivors, and assorted others gathered at Lotta's Fountain on Market and Geary for the annual commemoration ceremony, notable this year for being the first at which there were no living survivors of the Great Quake. The last of that rare breed, William Del Monte, passed away in January at age 109 — he was four months old when the quake struck, and only had memories to share told to him by his parents.

The numbers of centenarian survivors have of course been dwindling in recent years, and it's been decades since anyone with more than just the vaguest childhood memories of the quake were living. But the ceremony continues at Lotta's Fountain, and the Chron's resident nostalgia buff, SF native Carl Nolte tells NBC Bay Area that he sees the event as like the Fourth of July. "We don’t have any signers of the Declaration of Independence anymore do we? But we still celebrate it," he said.

As the Chronicle reports, this year's ceremony was used to also recognize and remember the victims of two recent major earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador. Anne Kronenberg, executive director of San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management, said to those affected places, "San Francisco stands in solidarity with you," as wreaths were lain at the fountain for those victims.

The cast iron fountain is named for Vaudeville performer Lotta Crabtree, who commissioned it as a gift to the city in 1875. It originally stood a partial block up at Third Street, Market, and Kearny, and was relocated to the intersection where Geary intersects Market in 1974, during the construction of BART that saw the whole street torn up. It was known to be a popular meeting spot for survivors just after the '06 quake.

And each year, after the 5:12 a.m. ceremony, many make their way to the corner of Dolores Park at Church and 20th Street where another ceremony takes place around the famed Golden Hydrant, known to be one of the only functioning fire hydrants after the quake which helped save this part of the Mission District in the ensuing fire.

An interesting sidebar: The Examiner reveals a never-before-seen letter that's recently surfaced, written by a quake survivor to a friend in Oakland who was wondering whether she should move to SF two months after the Great Quake, in June 1906. In the letter, which is a copy, Esther A. Connolly writes of the rising rents in the wake of the earthquake — something SFist noted in this piece last year — and of the vast numbers of people made homeless after the fire. "Imagine 490 big square blocks of city property laid bare by fire, and 300,000 people homeless, and you will realize the immense work of rebuilding that is ahead of San Francisco."

But, she says, she and many others refuse to leave.

We never have snow, tornadoes, cyclones, or — oh yes, we do have earthquakes. We are distinctly proud of our climate, our ocean, our bay, and our city, if it is in ruins... We went down with San Francisco, and we are satisfied to stay here and watch her grow.

Let this serve as a reminder, too, once again, to get your earthquake kit together if you haven't already. Here are some commercially available ones to buy, but you can also just make your own.

Previously: Bill Del Monte, Last Survivor Of 1906 Earthquake, Dead At 109