I was in junior high at the time (we didn’t call it middle school).
The shaking woke me into instant alertness.
I went to my bedroom doorway.*
The shaking was so violent, I had to physically hold onto the door frame to keep from getting tossed around, even though I was sitting on the floor.
It felt like our house was a dollhouse being shaken by a giant.
I called down the hall to my sister.
I told her that it was the “Big One,” the massive earthquake that was overdue and that we had been warned about our whole childhood (that still has not come). I was relieved because I knew we were going to survive it.
It was not the Big One.
Once it was over, we left the house in the dawn hours, and sat, away from the power lines, on our neighbor’s front lawn.
Nearly all of our dishware and glasses flew out of the kitchen cabinets and smashed on the tile counter-top, leaving a giant broken pile on the kitchen floor.
The extremely big, extremely heavy TV fell off the built-in stand and flat on its face. Still worked.
The speakers flew across the room. One landed up the stairs. Never replaced.
I had two fish tanks of fresh water plants and guppy colonies. Both ended up soaking the carpet. A handful of traumatized fish survived in a few inches of water, but were never the same.
I had two classmates who lost their houses.
Our house was okay.
A friend of mine was pinned under a bookshelf, but ended up okay.
I didn’t know anyone who was seriously injured or lost a loved one.
We were pretty lucky.
* Do not go to the doorway in case of an earthquake. It is no longer recommended. Get down on the floor next to a tallish sturdy object, out of shot from anything that might crash down on you, and cover your neck and head.
Northridge Quake, I was there - 20 years ago this morning
20 years ago this morning - I was living in North Hollywood, in an apartment suspended over a garage* and working in Northridge. It was 4:30am when the earthquake hit. A seriously sharp upthrust and then some heavy-duty rocking. Glass breaking, transformers popping and then total darkness. I jumped up for the doorway as I had been trained and was pulled back by my then boyfriend Chris, who was dead calm. He said Don’t worry, I’ll protect you — which I remember thinking was sweet, but insane. Luckily I stayed, as the furniture was dancing around the room.
In the dark, quiet afterward, we searched for our clothes, and shoes.** We were knee-deep in books, they were everywhere, so it took us about 15 minutes to wade through them to get outside.
Once in the courtyard, the first thing we heard on a portable radio was - “This was not the Big One.”
Not THE Big One perhaps, but A Big One nonetheless.
*Several apartments suspended over garages collapsed killing the residents, also the parking structure at the Mall across the street from where I worked.
**Though I was an adult, my Mom was horrified that my boyfriend was at my apartment the night of the quake, and that I included that fact in a missive I wrote to my family and friends. I can’t imagine how much worse the experience would have been if I’d been alone.