northridge quake

Unedited Thoughts About the Northridge Quake
  • I was approximately 12 miles from the epicenter.
  • 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.