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I was camping. My then-boyfriend and I, his niece, and our dog were sound asleep in our tiny camping trailer that Monday morning, MLK Day. The days at the beach north of Santa Barbara had been hot, but the nights were seriously chilly by Southern California standards, even for mid-January. We’d had fun, though, and when the time came to wake up, it would also be time to begin thinking about heading home. The boyfriend’s parents, who’d also joined us on the trip, had left on Sunday afternoon to return home.

The trailer shook. Startled awake, I immediately knew what the shaking was: it was an earthquake. My boyfriend tried to convince me to go back to sleep, thinking that the epicenter of the jolt was nearby. But something whispered to me that this wasn’t a local 4.0, and I turned the radio on. It was just after 4:30 in the morning, dark and cold.

For those of you fortunate enough to have never experienced an earthquake, particularly a sizable one, I can relate what we felt, but what those felt and heard at and around the epicenter was beyond my imagination. The trailer seemed to dip suddenly, and then it felt as though it was being violently tilted from center to one side and back over and over. And then it rolled….like sitting in a boat on a lake being lifted and dropped by the wake of a much larger boat passing by. In my experience, the farther you are away from the epicenter of a good sized shaker, the longer the rolling lasts. I’d imagine there’s science behind that being so.

I haven’t thought a lot about that morning twenty years ago, so I’m reaching back into the deeper recesses of my brain trying to recall details. I don’t remember what the radio said in those first few minutes, other than that there had indeed been a sizable earthquake. We were over 100 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, and I knew immediately that if the Los Angeles news radio station I was listening to was reporting it as a large earthquake, and that we felt it THAT strongly THAT far away, it was at least a 6.0, and probably bigger. I remember listening for a few minutes. The LA radio station, KFWB, had put a traffic helicopter up and the traffic reporter shockingly reported that large swaths of the Los Angeles area were pitch black.

Wearing relatively skimpy pajamas, I scrabbled through the contents of pockets and wallets looking for change for the pay phone I knew was about a quarter of a mile down the road from our campsite. The awesome brick cell phone I owned was useless, and I needed to get in touch with family. I ran to the pay phone with a pile of quarters in my hand and began dialing. His parents. My parents. His best friend. My next door neighbor. Nothing. Three tones: “Due to the earthquake, all circuits are busy. Please try your call again later.” Finally, in desperation, I called my grandparents in Orange County, well over 60 miles south of my hometown. My grandfather, who’d been through the 1971 Sylmar earthquake, was grave. “Get home,” he told me. “This is going to be really, really bad.”

We immediately packed up the trailer. We dumped our gray and black water at the dump station and filled the fresh water tank to the top. Then we ran to the gas station and filled up on gas, and spent a small fortune in the convenience store on batteries, flash lights, bottled water, boxed pasta and canned goods. And then we began the long, painful, scary drive down Highway 101 back home. Just south of soon-to-be ex-Congresscritter Buck McKeon’s district, several of the towering overpasses that comprised the Newhall Pass had collapsed, and that path of return was closed to us. Instead, we had to take a much longer route along the coast and through the Conejo Valley before hooking back north. Between the traffic, the damage, and the length of the drive, our usual 90 minute trip lasted over four hours. I shook the whole way. One of my most vivid memories was of a Howard Johnson’s hotel somewhere on the valley floor with enormous shards of glass hanging like spectral guillotines from the façade. There was glass, and water, and bricks, and concrete. Everywhere. Dust plumes towering from the mountains to the north and west. Fires. Chaos.

I’m a native of the San Fernando Valley, whose vast sprawl is immediately north of downtown. My family, and that of my then-boyfriend, lived about three miles apart in the northeast corner of the valley, about seven or eight miles as the crow flies from what would eventually be determined as the epicenter of what came to be known as the Northridge Earthquake. It was pegged as a 6.7 (although conspiracy theories circulated that the quake had actually been a 7.1, but that supposedly that would mean FEMA would have had to pay money to homeowners without earthquake insurance and so President Clinton put the kibosh on the higher magnitude….see, even earthquakes get tinfoil hat treatment!) and lasted only 10 seconds, but resulted in some of the fastest ground peak acceleration rates ever recorded. It was also fairly shallow, striking at a depth of just under 12 miles. Long story short: it was on the low end of “big” by magnitude standards, but other factors made it a lot worse than it might have otherwise been.

We were fortunate. My family’s house suffered almost no damage, save for a couple of broken china cups and saucers. My boyfriend’s family wasn’t so lucky. The chimney pulled away from the back wall of the house, affording a previously-unavailable view of the pool via a gigantic crack in the wall. The rooms were studded with huge X-shaped cracks in the walls, and nearly everything that could break did. And maybe worst of all, the many fish aquariums in the house had toppled, killing the fish and spilling several hundred gallons of water into the carpet, ruining the beautiful oak floors underneath. Plus their precious Lincoln Towncar got dented up when tons of crap they stored in the garage rafters fell. Sigh. Odd things happened, too: the stem of a broken glass goblet was holding up the pedestal of the dining room table, causing it to tilt. A silk plant on the toilet tank fell to the floor and, when the violent movement lifted the toilet from the floor, the leaves of the plant got trapped beneath, even though the toilet remained bolted to the floor.

Neither my family nor my boyfriend’s family were particularly injured financially. Both houses were safe to occupy, although the boyfriend and I spent over a week in the trailer just for peace of mind in light of the near-constant aftershocks. But we had no running water for several days, and both the electricity and gas were off for nearly a week. It was pretty inconvenient for us, but for the 50-plus people who died and thousands who were injured and/or homeless, it was far worse.

The most glaring and obvious damage was to freeways and roads, big commercial buildings and apartment and condo complexes. But for those of us who lived in the area, smaller but no less significant instances of damage became problematic as time wore on. For example, although there were no bridge collapses, the raised roadbed of Interstate 405 through the valley dropped by upwards of a foot in several places, even as the overpasses that allowed traffic to pass beneath the highway remained stationary. The result was that, as a driver approached an overpass, he or she found a several-inch high difference between the roadbed and the bridge deck. It took a while and a lot of flat tires, but eventually CalTrans used asphalt to build temporary ramps on each side of the affected overpasses to smooth out the highway’s surface.

Streets were crazed with cracks and littered with broken chunks of asphalt. Sidewalks buckled, creating navigational hazards for pedestrians and, in some cases, barriers for the disabled. Water mains broke. So did gas lines. One poor man and his dogs were caught unawares in the middle of a major street after a main broke and the rushing water killed his engine. The guy tried repeatedly to start his truck, unaware that a gas line had also broken. The spark during his attempts to start the truck resulted in a huge explosion that wiped out several houses on both sides of the street. Amazingly, the truck’s owner survived with severe burns and walked with his one remaining dog for miles until he was taken to a hospital. I remember the terror of the drive home, during which we had to pass through an intersection where a broken gas main was shooting unignited fumes into the air. It was off to one side, and people were driving on the wrong side of the street to skirt it. You could see the shimmer of the gas in the airand the smell of the odorant was enough to make you gag. But there was no other way to go….it was stop, or go through.

The ground shuddered almost constantly for days on end. I remember that first night vividly, camped out again in the trailer and completely exhausted, only to wake up every few minutes as the trailer rocked. Sometimes, it was just a little rattling. Other times, it was out-and-out heaving. I remember the shaking, and don’t remember when it stopped. Eventually, for the most part, it did.

My ex’s redneck parents had all kinds of odd things around the house, and one of those things was a tiny television that could be connected directly to a car battery (and there were DOZENS of those in their garage). By late afternoon of the first day, we were able to see grainy pictures of the world beyond. Two mobile home parks just a few blocks away were leveled by fires. Freeway bridges dozens of miles away had come down. It seemed that most of the world I’d grown up in had been crushed, twisted, broken or burned. Cal State Northridge, my alma mater, suffered substantial damage. One of the iconic pictures of the storyline, a newly-opened parking garage, was on the east side of campus and had been built the last year of my studies. The picture showed the garage folded in on itself, the concrete columns bent toward the ground in almost graceful arches.

Even weeks and months and years later, there were reminders. We went to see a movie a few weeks later, and the theater concessions could only sell canned soda because we were still under a boil order for drinking water. And of course, we had an aftershock in the middle of the movie. A few years later, I saw the movie “Volcano”, and that night we had a 5-point-plus aftershock. When the towering bridges in the pass were reopened, I struggled driving over them, and if I was the passenger in the car I’d tightly close my eyes until I knew the bridges were behind us.

At the time, I was a freshly-minted Republican voter, having cast my very first vote two years earlier for Ross Perot. I was incredibly bigoted (something I remain ashamed of twenty years later) and a firm believer in the so-called free market economy. When President Clinton came to the valley in the days after the earthquake, I mocked both him and FEMA director James Lee Witt as a couple of bleeding heart losers who were handing out free money to “illegal aliens” and deadbeats. I openly sneered at large groups of Latino apartment dwellers who decamped to parks and cooked over grills rather than return to their decimated homes, irately ranting that their modest tents and chairs were “third world”. In other words, I was a flaming jerk.

Looking back now on what happened in the weeks, months and years that followed through my liberal filter (and how that transition occurred was chronicled in a long-ago diary here on DKos), I can see several stunningly awesome examples of how government actually HELPED people who needed it during a disaster.
·         FEMA provided funds to a lot of folks who lived in apartment buildings that were condemned, and  that money enabled them to move to new homes and helped pay for new furnishings. A coworker received about $3500 after she lost everything in her apartment. There were stories about fraud, but I’d be willing to bet that such cases were very small in number. Just like voter fraud and welfare fraud, the myth outruns reality. I think FEMA did a terrific job in helping people pick up the pieces and move on. They were there right away, and they stayed a long, long time.
·         Although the work was farmed out to private contractors, CalTrans ensured that the freeways and highways that were damaged were back in service in VERY short order. Early predictions were that transportation via Interstate 5 and 10 and state highways 14 and 118 would be impacted for potentially years, but because CalTrans immediately started the process of demolition and reconstruction and provided sizable bonuses for early completion, the nightmares of road travel (particularly through the Newhall Pass) lasted less than six months.
·         An earthquake insurance fund was created by the state after private insurers took it in the shorts and stopped writing coverage after the earthquake. It’s not terrific, but it’s certainly better than nothing.
·         Revisions to building and safety codes were passed, including requiring that hot water heater tanks be secured to walls and changing to the structural requirements for apartments after the collapse of the Northridge Meadows complex, which killed over a dozen of its residents.
·         When the freeways fell, commuters almost immediately began using public transportation, especially from the Antelope and Santa Clarita Valleys north of the Newhall Pass. When I myself moved to Santa Clarita a couple of years later, I, too, took the train into the city. The earthquake made trains and buses far more attractive than they’d ever been before, and in the time I was commuting via train, I rarely saw it less than packed. Good thing those Federal and State transportation budgets made it possible.

I have changed a lot in the twenty years since Northridge. I realized the error of my ways and converted to liberalism in the wake of 9/11. I left California and have never desired to move back. I’ve been married, divorced, remarried, had a kid, become my disabled brother’s caregiver. I would estimate that 99% of the people I was close to during that time are no longer a part of my life. But even without injury or death among those I cared for, even without losing a home or a job, even with just enduring inconvenience and discomfort for a while, that day and its aftermath have marked me nonetheless. I don’t ever want to experience something like that again.

I was (un) fortunate enough to endure a substantial earthquake in the Puget Sound area in 2001, and I’m pleased that I have since traded earthquakes for blizzards. I still have a lot of friends and family in the danger zone, though, and I recoil in concern every time a whisper of the e-word flutters through Facebook. Now, twenty years later, I worry not only about the experience of the earthquake itself, but about the aftermath in an age where nothing is regulated and government has been gutted. It brings to mind the anguish and helplessness I felt after Katrina, but also the horror of knowing it could be MY loved ones trying to survive the aftermath.

Today is the anniversary. Twenty years since that fateful Monday.

Originally posted to Auntie Neo Kawn on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 05:40 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Do you remember? (69+ / 0-)

    I can think of several current and former Kossacks from the SFV and surrounding areas. I have only been that scared one other time, and that was when I saw a small tornado pass about three miles south of my house a few years back. That fear passed quickly. took YEARS to stop waiting for the next one.

    "Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose." ―Yoda to Anakin Skywalker

    by Auntie Neo Kawn on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 05:40:13 PM PST

    •  Thanks (9+ / 0-)

      for the reminder. My "brother" came from LA a few months after the Northridge quake with his second wife and 2 year-old daughter. They were tired of the heat, the crowds, the helicopters and now the shaking. They hadn't been here (Wyoming) for about 4 months before the wife locked him out of the house and became a fundie Christian. I think the shaking did some damage to her, you know? Anyway, we met through a mutual friend, he fell in love with another friend, they married and have been happy in (comparitively) quake-free Wyo for nearly 17 years. Northridge brought us all together, you might say.

      •  That's quite a story (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ColoTim, joynow

        I had a coworker who moved TO Northridge from suburban Boston a year before the quake. She was about six months' pregnant when it happened, and within a few months after she and her husband went back to Boston. I can totally understand why, too. Their building was red-tagged (condemned) and they were within about a mile and a half of the epicenter, so they were really freaked out.

        "Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose." ―Yoda to Anakin Skywalker

        by Auntie Neo Kawn on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 08:13:18 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Sorry for the drive by (5+ / 0-)

      I am falling asleep. It's been a long week. Hugs to you all and thanks for sharing.

      "Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose." ―Yoda to Anakin Skywalker

      by Auntie Neo Kawn on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 07:51:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I was in Hollywood during Martin Luther Quake (14+ / 0-)

    my building was twisted on it's foundations, fun times.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 06:09:45 PM PST

    •  I was on the eleventh floor of the Holiday Inn (13+ / 0-)

      on Sunset.  The building swayed on it's earthquake-proof bed rolled out from under me and I landed with a thud on the floor...then hung on as it swayed back and forth for a while.  Tried to look out the window, and almost got sick.

      "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana." --Townes Van Zandt

      by Bisbonian on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 07:04:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  WOW! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I always thought of Hollywood as being so far from my part of town, but as the crow flies it's really not. I think the Hills were enough of a barrier to make me think that LA and Hollywood were far flung. I cannot imagine what that had to have felt like!

        "Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose." ―Yoda to Anakin Skywalker

        by Auntie Neo Kawn on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 08:16:03 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  My alarm was set for 5AM, and I think the quake (3+ / 0-)

          was around 4:30.  I got up, got dressed and headed downstairs.  The desk folks said the building was on rollers...sure felt like it!  It was something like being at the top of a mast of a tall sailing ship, in rough seas.  Hang on!

          I looked at Google Maps, and my memory was a bit faulty...the building is on Highland Ave and Franklin, a block north of Hollywood Blvd, and 3 north of Sunset.  Pretty sure it was a Holiday Inn, then, but it is a Renaissance, now.  Still looks the same.  I guess those rollers work.

          "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana." --Townes Van Zandt

          by Bisbonian on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 01:59:43 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  A friend (18+ / 0-)

    lived in Northridge, a mile or so north of where they finally determined the epicenter to be. She bailed out of bed. Her husband stayed put - the bookcase fell across her side. A bottle with a little tequila was sitting on top of the fridge, up against the cupboard door. It was still on top of the fridge when the shaking stopped - but the cupboard door was open in front of it.

    I heard other stories: about someone who'd dropped keys and change on top of the dresser, and found the keys afterward in the middle drawer of three. Another friend, living in Eagle Rock, with a view northwest across the width of the valley, said he could see transformers arcing and blowing up.

    Where was I? In west Texas. I didn't miss it; I wasn't here for it (saw it on TV, though: 'OMG, I know where that is!'). But it was years before some of the damage was fixed, and there's still a vacant lot at CSUN where the bent parking structure was demolished.

    (Is it time for the pitchforks and torches yet?)

    by PJEvans on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 06:11:17 PM PST

    •  I didn't know that! (0+ / 0-)

      I guess I never drove down Zelzah to see the parking least, I think it was on Zelzah. I didn't know they didn't rebuild it!

      I had an acquaintance in Little Rock who I met a couple of years after the quake, and he said the same thing. He said that he saw the lights go out in big sections, too.

      "Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose." ―Yoda to Anakin Skywalker

      by Auntie Neo Kawn on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 08:19:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I was working on 'Bikini Drive-In' (17+ / 0-)

    We were filming outdoors at the El Monte Drive-in, and the earthquake hit while we were filming a scene where topless girls were dancing on car roofs. Because a drive-in is basically a giant parking lot, we could see the 'waves' moving through the ground, quite clearly and pretty sizeable. Because it was overcast with low clouds, the sky was lighting up bright green all around us, reflecting the bright green lights as hundreds of transformers blew all over the city.

    When the shaking stopped (the main quake, lots of aftershocks to come) we were all pretty shaken up, and took a break to gather ourselves. I knew at the time that it was a BIG one (born and raised in L.A., experienced lots including the '71 Sylmar quake which was also BIG), and it was the days before cell phones were common, so everyone was worried about loved ones and couldn't call to find out how anyone was. We finished out the night's filming though, we only had that last night to shoot at the location. There was only another hour or so before the sun came up and we had to stop, anyway.

    I knew that there would be roads blocked and freeways collapsed, so I drove home carefully - fortunately my route was clear, and there was only minor damage to my house when I got home. But my neighborhood (Sun Valley) was a poor area in the San Fernando Valley, and because of that we were on the bottom of the list for repairs - we didn't get our electricity back on for THREE WEEKS!

    Of course my scumbag brother and his lying wife conspired with her dad (who managed their insurance company) to do some nice insurance fraud, and got a $50,000 settlement even though their home had no damage. So it was bad for most, good for some.

    "Do you suppose actually SEEING the candidate eat the rat could cost us the election?" - Republican campaign manager

    by Fordmandalay on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 06:21:01 PM PST

    •  I was from the name area (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      A bit further northeast. I'm not sure we waited any longer for utilities than anyone else, but I wouldn't be surprised if we did.

      Funny (true!) story! My stupid, delusional mother wanted a gallon of milk maybe Thursday or Friday so that they could have cereal. She actually went to the market (which would sell you stuff through a partially-open entering) with her CHECKBOOK! This wasn't a case of desperation...they had plenty of food. It was just a matter of preference. And she was pissed when they refused her. I swear my mother is an idiot.

      "Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose." ―Yoda to Anakin Skywalker

      by Auntie Neo Kawn on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 08:27:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for this (8+ / 0-)

    extremely well written diary. I wasn't even close to there, I do remember it and you made it feel very real to me.

    Thanks again.

    And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County Down by the Green River where Paradise lay. Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away. John Prine

    by high uintas on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 06:26:28 PM PST

  •  I retired last year (10+ / 0-)

    from working for the gas company, making sure that the database for the high-pressure pipe was good. The maps can, if you know what to look for, tell you where things broke. (Balboa was a bad place to have breaks, being a major street, and natural gas doesn't play well with water.)

    (Is it time for the pitchforks and torches yet?)

    by PJEvans on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 06:32:46 PM PST

    •  Yeah, Balboa was a mess (0+ / 0-)

      I did a lot of reading about the post-mortem done by USGS and CalTech for planning purposes, and although a lot of the terminology escapes me, it's really fascinating how much of Los Angeles is built in really bad places. I remember for years hearing about how they'd never build houses and stuff in what is now Porter Ranch because of the Sesnon fault. I guess money overcame reason.

      Glad you got to retire in one piece. Gotta give it to the utility guys. I had a friend who worked for DWP at the time and they were busting ass trying to get things working again. I think utility workers should be right up on the list with cops and firefighters and EMTs as "first responders".

      "Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose." ―Yoda to Anakin Skywalker

      by Auntie Neo Kawn on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 08:31:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I lived in El Monte, and near Balboa, worked (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Auntie Neo Kawn

        in downtown LA for five years. Missed all the big earthquakes, though the concrete floor of my folks' beach cabin on Newport Island was split into four sections by the '33 quake. I left CA in '61, and I'm grateful that I never had to go through a "big one."

  •  I have never lived (9+ / 0-)

    near the Pacific Ocean...but there was an earthquake here maybe six years ago.

    I thought the subway train did it, until I remembered there are NO subways here.

    English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street. E. B. White

    by Youffraita on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 06:34:37 PM PST

    •  Yeah, I hear you (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Youffraita, outragedinSF

      I'm in Wisconsin, and there was a decent earthquake down in Illinois a few years ago. Strong enough to be felt up here (although the geology is different, so as with the earthquake in Virginia a few years ago, you can feel them really far away). It kind of pissed me off..."damn it, I left the West Coast and I'm STILL dealing with these bastards!"

      "Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose." ―Yoda to Anakin Skywalker

      by Auntie Neo Kawn on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 08:32:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  When the Loma Prieta earthquake (SF area) (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Auntie Neo Kawn, atana, Youffraita, joynow

      hit in 1989, one of my thoughts was that the streetcar going by outside was noticeably louder than usual.  Then I realized, there was no street car on Divisadero (the street in San Francisco where I was in a shop at the time).  I was hearing the earth and the bricks of the buildings groaning.

  •  I was in Silver Lake (9+ / 0-)

    An LA district/suburb/whatever. I didn't even live in LA at the time, tho I'm an LA native, but I was there that weekend, sleeping on a couch--which I was rudely thrown off of by the quake.

    it was...pretty scary for those few minutes. And then afterward--one of the great things about the place I was staying was the view of the city. But that morning, there essentially wasn't one. Not a light to be seen throughout the city, until the hospital and other generators kicked in.

    It was far from silent, though. Within seconds of the quake what sounded like every car alarm within miles started wailing and beeping and honking.

    Me, I wanted to go home, but of course the freeway was messed up. If the quake had hit a couple hours later, I would have been on that freeway, in fact. But I still wanted out of the city (I was in Sylmar quake, too, and I knew about aftershocks and wasn't fond of those either.)

    Anyway, a friend called a friend who was a trucker and plotted me out a route through the San Barnadino mountains--I left the next morning.

    For all that, I had to return to LA the next week or so...and almost as soon as I got there they had one of the strongest aftershocks of the original quake to that date. I wouldn't say someone or something was trying to tell me something, but...

    I got what I went there for, took off and haven't been back since. ;)

    Great story, BTW

    True radicalism is finding reasons for hope, not grounds for despair. - Ray Williams

    by Nanette K on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 06:54:59 PM PST

    •  I feel for you (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I can't say I miss them. I assume you don't, either.

      I remember watching "2012", the disaster movie with John Cusack, and there were a bunch of earthquakes happening at the beginning of the movie in LA. The fake radio announcer guy says something along the lines of "We'll not bow to these little quakes". Sorry, dude. I lived there for the first 26 years of my life and I'll happily bow....bow myself right out of the state!

      My parents lived in San Fernando for the Sylmar quake. Daddy said it was quite a ride, but not as violent as Northridge. So glad I mostly missed them both.

      "Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose." ―Yoda to Anakin Skywalker

      by Auntie Neo Kawn on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 08:36:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think I still prefer quakes to other events (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Auntie Neo Kawn

        Where you sometimes have days of warning, anticipation, preparation, fear, "stay or go" decisions and whatnot, and then can still lose out, with entire regions destroyed, as well as loss of life and property.

        At least with an earthquake, it strikes suddenly, lasts for only minutes, and if at the end of all that you're still standing (or at least breathing) chances are you know you've made it.

        Or something like that :)

        Where I live now, in Central CA, our main "events" are hideously hot summers and dangerous fog. I'm okay with that, too.

        True radicalism is finding reasons for hope, not grounds for despair. - Ray Williams

        by Nanette K on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 12:28:42 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for the recounting. (6+ / 0-)

    I was born and raised, and again reside, in north Alabama. Your experience with the '94 quake closely parallels mine with the 27 April 2011 tornadoes. It's worth noting, though, that the (federal) National Weather Service began telling us several days in advance that the coming Wednesday was liable to be very bad. No one has such warning with earthquakes.

    I'll leave the political alone.

    Excellent writing. Great diary. Thanks again.

    "I ordered enchiladas and I ate 'em. Ali had the fruit punch." - A Tribe Called Quest

    by turnover on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 07:12:14 PM PST

  •  Thanks for the memories? (7+ / 0-)

    My then-wife and I lived in Tujunga then, in a nice older house which survived the rocking and rolling just fine. The insides, on the other hand, were like we'd been shoved in a blender on high.

    Appliances flew from carts and entertainment centers, every bookcase (and we had several) collapsed, my grandmother's antique porcelain was destroyed, and my favorite recent Christmas present was destroyed.

    On the other hand, my then in-laws fared much worse in Sherman Oaks, losing all the brickwork on their home. The chimney in the fireplace in the bedroom fell away from the house, but the one in the living room came down through the roof. The biggest financial loss, though, was to my father-in-law's prized wine collection, which he found when it started oozing out from under the door of the wine closet.

    Our friends out near Sherman Way and Reseda were much worse off. You could see the sky between the walls and ceiling of their apartment, and all their friends gathered to get them the heck out of there as quickly as possible. They'd been in that apartment 17 years, and it was quite a chore. Much of their belongings wound up in our garage for 2 years. I remember the traffic into work in Santa Monica was very light for several weeks, because people couldn't get through from the Antelope Valley.

    The Sunday following, we were at a wedding, and there was an aftershock during it. The priest announced, nervously "No, no -- the earth is supposed to move for you AFTER the ceremony, in private."

    •  I love the wedding anecdote! (0+ / 0-)

      At least some folks were able to keep their sense of humor.

      It sounds like you and people you knew went through a hell of a lot worse than we did. I was essentially a kid still....I'd finished college the year before, and was still living at home. I didn't have too many friends who weren't still at home, either, so most of what we went through was under the tutelage of our parents.

      I think about it now and wonder if I wouldn't have been even more freaked out if I'd had kids and/or owned a home when it happened.

      "Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose." ―Yoda to Anakin Skywalker

      by Auntie Neo Kawn on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 08:48:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Also left CA, after Loma Prieta in 89. (11+ / 0-)

    The building I worked in shook like Jello, it was finally condemned after 2 weeks of creaking and cracking and making many of us nervous as hell. They had to rehang all the floors from a new steel exoskeleton. That made it "as good as it was before the earthquake." Yeh.

    Lived in a Victorian from 1904. It stood fine but the chimney had to be relined and some of the leaded glass popped its leading. Two major quakes under that house's belt now.

    Several weeks after the quake, when I was still sleeping on the couch downstairs so I could do like all the other fools and run out the door, I went up to my bedroom and realized that the balls on the top of the posts of my four-poster bed had punched dents into the ceiling above. Like, two feet above. That sucker had been airborne.

    Then there were the fires in the East Bay hills.

    That kind of did it. We didn't leave immediately, but leave we did. And have not gone back.

    •  Sun workstations were bouncing (7+ / 0-)

      At work, Sun workstations (remember the big ones?) were bouncing off desks onto the floor. Fire extinguishers were flying off the walls.

      The emergency lights in the stairways were not working because no one had ever replaced the batteries.

      There was created about a 3 inch deviation in floor levels where two perpendicular wings of the building met that had not been there before.  When the engineer's report was read at an executive meeting a VP ran out and through the halls screaming "Evacuate NOW!!!"

      Ah, the memories.

      •  I remember that one (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        My dad freaked! The LA news station we were watching that afternoon (just the news) had their own seismograph, and when they showed the needle swinging Daddy made all of us run outside. I think after a few minutes he was a little chagrined to realize the ground wasn't shaking.

        The guy I was involved with during Northridge had family in Redwood City, San Mateo and environs. His cousin was at the Stick for the game, and I remember he said they were in the upper deck partying (which may explain their observation) when the cousin's girlfriend saw cars bouncing in a wave toward the stadium and said "Look! There's an earthquake coming!"


        "Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose." ―Yoda to Anakin Skywalker

        by Auntie Neo Kawn on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 08:52:24 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Yike! Were you in it at the time of the quake? (6+ / 0-)
      ...the balls on the top of the posts of my four-poster bed had punched dents into the ceiling above. Like, two feet above. That sucker had been airborne.  

      "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." -- Sen Carl Schurz 1872

      by Calamity Jean on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 11:29:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I lived in Ventura at the time (6+ / 0-)

    about 20 miles from Northridge.  I couldn't sleep that night before the quake and was awake in bed reading.  I lived in a two-story loft apartment in a large, barn-like wooden apartment building.  When the quake hit, I was sure the building was collapsing, and I bolted out of my apartment to the parking lot, along with many of my neighbors (whom I did not know - I had just moved down from San Francisco about 4 months prior.)  Grabbed a jacket as I ran out of my apartment, but only when the shaking stopped did I realize I had no pants on.

    My neighbors didn't care - and after I went back in to put some pants on, I joined my neighbors in their apartment to listen to their battery-powered radio (I was woefully unprepared.)  About three hours later I tried to make my way down the 101 to my office in Westlake Village.  The freeway, was absolutely empty, and I didnt even think that the overpasses might be unsafe.  My office was a mess - filing cabinets tipped to the floor, cracks everywhere.

    As I said, I lived in San Francisco prior to moving to Ventura, and I lived through the aftermath of Loma Prieta, but the aftershocks of the Northridge quake were far worse.  For many months I couldn't sleep upstairs in my apartment, because the aftershocks were so numerous and so strong that I feared for my safety upstairs.  I recall many aftershocks, with more than the usual number over 5.0, almost daily for weeks.

    The whole thing was very harrowing, but fortunately my losses were small and I was not injured.  I've been through a lot of quakes, in SF, on Guam, and in So. CA.   I've been through one of the worst typhoons ever to hit the planet (Super Typhoon Paka).  I will never, ever, really get over the Northridge quake.  It set the "standard" for the worst natural experience of my life.

    "A liberal is a man or a woman or a child who looks forward to a better day, a more tranquil night, and a bright, infinite future." - Leonard Bernstein

    by outragedinSF on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 12:36:06 AM PST

    •  I can relate (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ColoTim, outragedinSF

      I went through Whittier in 1989 and the one in Seattle in 2001. None of them will ever be like Northridge.

      Did you know there were over 11,000 aftershocks up until 12/31/1994? I always thought it seemed like a really active aftershock sequence. My parents said they had aftershocks from Sylmar for ten years....I believe it.

      "Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose." ―Yoda to Anakin Skywalker

      by Auntie Neo Kawn on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 08:55:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The "Do you remembers" in the area I live in (5+ / 0-)

    are the Blizzard of '78  and the ice storm in ice storm in 20092009.

    But we live in the region that would be seriously affected if the New Madrid faultgoes live in a big way, and I sincerely hope it waits to go boom until I'm six feet under.  We've had smallish earthquakes, and inevitably it seems I was asleep at the time.

    When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

    by Alexandra Lynch on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 12:58:47 AM PST

  •  I went thru earthquakes in KY (4+ / 0-)

    small, dish-rattlers. One in chemistry class in HS had most of us on the floor because there was Noise. And when in Indiana in college, in 1973, the day of Tornadoes, I was in my room, sick with GI issues, watching tornadoes develop around the area, and then the house swayed. Earthquake the same day as tornadoes. I was still an invincible then.

    In NY I have only felt one, again house-swaying. On a visit to SF, in a grand hotel, I feared that the chandelier above the bed would start to sway. Lucked out, or something.

    Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry. F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Great Gatsby

    by riverlover on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 02:52:54 AM PST

  •  Fascinating diary, honest and rec-worthy (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, Auntie Neo Kawn, ColoTim

    What a frightening experience, Auntie Neo Kawn, but I'm glad you survived to tell the tale!

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 06:16:49 AM PST

  •  Nice work! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, Auntie Neo Kawn, ColoTim

      The writing is top-notch!

    Best, HH99

    Compost for a greener piles?

    by Hoghead99 on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 06:53:42 AM PST

  •  A friend visiting Northridge at the time of the (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Auntie Neo Kawn, tb92, RiveroftheWest

    earthquake had this advice for people in earthquake country: always have a flashlight near your bed. It was very difficult for him to get out of the pitch-dark bedroom at 4:30 in the morning.

    The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. -- Judge Learned Hand, May 21, 1944

    by ybruti on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 02:13:41 PM PST

  •  Fine diary. Thanks for posting. (3+ / 0-)

    Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings. —Nelson Mandela

    by kaliope on Sun Jan 19, 2014 at 12:52:09 AM PST

  •  I deeply appreciate this: (4+ / 0-)
    At the time, I was a freshly-minted Republican voter, having cast my very first vote two years earlier for Ross Perot. I was incredibly bigoted (something I remain ashamed of twenty years later) and a firm believer in the so-called free market economy. When President Clinton came to the valley in the days after the earthquake, I mocked both him and FEMA director James Lee Witt as a couple of bleeding heart losers who were handing out free money to “illegal aliens” and deadbeats. I openly sneered at large groups of Latino apartment dwellers who decamped to parks and cooked over grills rather than return to their decimated homes, irately ranting that their modest tents and chairs were “third world”. In other words, I was a flaming jerk.
    This is called honesty and learning from experience.  Religious people call it repentance.  It is the clearest sign of moral and intellectual integrity.  It is what I constantly fail to hear from politicians, pundits, and most of my fellow citizens.

    My old hometown in deep East Texas is full of people who have revised their racist past rather than repented of it. "We were always good and respectful to black people in our town.  Federal meddling in Civil Rights actually made things worse here," they say. Consequently, they are trapped in an only cosmetically better racist present.  

    Oh, that on this MLK day the blinders might be lifted, and all of us might see our own faults, present and past, as clearly as you have stated yours.  Then we might all say with much more truth, "Free at last! Free at last! Great God Almighty, I'm free at last!"

  •  Clinton's FEMA and CALDOT developed rapid bridge (0+ / 0-)


    it was a real clever trick,  take an old railroad flat car,
    slice the wheel trucks off, craine it in place, weld some flats.

    or, use some I Beams to shore it up if the old bridge foundations are shot.

    they could make these as kits, in colorado, and rail them in,
    by the hundreds.

  •  Great Han-Shin (Kobe-Osaka) Earthquake (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, Auntie Neo Kawn

    Occurred just about one year later. Jan 17 at about 5:45am I was awakened by a tall filing cabinet crashing to the floor in my bedroom in an old fashioned house in Osaka. Managed to get an immediate phone call out to my parents in the U.S. before the wires became overloaded. I was shaken, but fine. Lost only some glassware.

    A fellow teacher closer to Kobe had to evacuate her damaged apartment. So I invited her to stay with me for a few nights. She regaled me with tales of the Northridge quake which she had experienced the previous year. Needless to say, I enquired where she was planning to live next year.

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