If you were in Southern California on January 17th, 1994, chances are you know exactly where you were at 4:31am when the 6.7 magnitude Northridge earthquake rocked the region.
I was in bed about 46 miles away from the epicenter. I remember, very distinctly, being awakened by a rumble that quickly resulted into the most violently shaking I had ever felt. I’ve lived in L.A. since 1971 so I’ve shook along with some pretty sizable quakes including my first one, the Sylmar quake (6.6). I attempted to run from my bedroom out into the hallway but that was nearly impossible. The adrenaline shot through and began to feel sick. I was SURE this was going to be the end.
Despite the fact that the earthquake only lasted between 10-20 seconds, it literally felt like minutes. I laid in the hallway watching ceiling lamps swing violently from their chains. I could see the pool water white-capping, being driven onto the surrounding concrete.
When it finally stopped I sat there, my heart wanting to exit my chest, wondering how I survived – why didn’t the house collapse? About a minute later I started to get up when the first of two magnitude 6.0 aftershocks struck. OMG – we are all going to die. I honestly don’t know how long I sat in the same place, waiting for more aftershocks, but it was quite a while. finally got up I went straight for the TV and the radio.
Unlike today, news took a while to be reported – no Facebook, no Twitter. The radio was the first to report that there was extensive damage and not too much longer the images started to hit the TV. The first one I remember was this image on the right – the vehicles trapped on this insanely high overpass. We soon learned that LAPD motorcycle officer Clarence Wayne Dean had died while going to work. That news numbed me.
Other images that stuck in my mind were broken gas lines shooting fire from cratered asphalt and the sights of collapsed apartment buildings that riddle Northridge.
And then it hit me – one of my dearest friends and her sister, lived in Northridge. I trembled with fear as to what might have happened to them.
It took quite a while before I learned that the apartment she was in did indeed collapse. It fell straight down, crashing on top of the parking area. She later told me that her apartment was on the first floor but it was really on the second floor since the first floor, and the basement, were for parking. After the quake hit, she and her sister were dazed, they were not sure what had happened. The couldn’t get out their front door because it was jammed shut. They opened up the sliding glass door that led out to their balcony only to discover that they were now at ground level.
The “official” death toll was placed at 57, more than 8,700 were injured including 1,600 who required hospitalization.
Where you when the quake hit?