Tuesday, January 17, 2012

January 17, 1994: The Northridge Earthquake

January 17, 1994 was a pivotal day for those of us who lived through the Northridge Earthquake, whose epicenter, by the way, was really in Reseda.  It was not a day that any of us are likely to forget.  "General devastation" is probably the most accurate description of the aftermath of those 20 dreadful seconds, the longest 20 seconds of my life.  For many months afterward, I woke up every single morning at 4:30.

Yet my family were among the lucky ones.  Although many personal possessions were destroyed, the house did not suffer any serious structural damage, and nobody in the family was hurt.  We were without gas for a week -- we shut off the gas right after the earthquake, and the gas company couldn't spare a man to come out right away and check for leaks and turn it back on.  So, we did a lot of barbecuing: all that meat in the freezer came in very handy.  We had water, but no hot water until the gas could be turned back on; and we had power restored that same evening.  I still remember the sound of transformers blowing when the juice started running back through them.  

As for the stuff in the house, even after everything was picked up, it was a long time before we could find anything again.  You remembered where things were before the earthquake; you would always reach for things in their former locations, and be unable to remember where they were afterward.  During the earthquake itself, things got thrown into the oddest places.  My grandmother's old (and quite heavy) meat grinder, which was stored in a cupboard over the refrigerator, ended up clear in the dining room.  And then there was all the broken glass.  For the longest time, slivers of broken glass kept turning up, like a deeply embedded splinter that eventually works its way to the surface of the skin.

One humorous thing about the earthquake.  It was only then that I learned that the San Fernando Valley, where I was born and raised, is the porn capital of the whole universe.  How did I learn this?  Because the porn people came out and announced to the media that this earthquake was not in fact divine retribution on their filthy industry.

As if they would know. 

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