JET editor gives eye-witness view of L.A. earthquake

JET editor gives eye-witness view of L.A. earthquake – Los Angeles, California

Aldore Collier

I have lived in Los Angeles for almost 13 years and had become every bit as blase and complacent as the next Angelino when it came to earthquakes. After all, most of them just rolled in, shook you for a few seconds, and went on their not-so merry way.

January 17 was totally different. Totally different! Unlike the dozen or so of its predecessors I have experienced, this roaring monster did not give us any semblance of warning. No, this one began with massive, vertical jolts that seemed to last for at least half an hour (seismologists said 30 to 45 seconds).

I was awakened by the jolting that felt as if some huge, sinister figure had wrapped his arms around the building and began shaking it up and down mercilessly. Books that I had stacked on the nightstand next to the bed began flying all of a sudden, hitting me on the head and falling onto the bed.

The bed was moving up and down so much that I half-expected to turn over and find Linda Blair (The Exorcist) in there with me.

Because so many things seemed to be flying and the sound was so frighteningly loud like rumbling subway trains, I figured this really was that “Big One” we all have been told about but basically ignored.

As I stumbled out of the bed to get to the doorway (described as one of the few safe places to be) more books flew, a television set fell from the stand onto the floor and prints fell from the wall.

The roaring seemed to grow louder as I struggled to keep my footing in the doorway. I honestly wondered just how much of the building would remain above ground when this was over. The building seemed to be tilted at an angle but still shaking vertically.

Before it stopped, I looked out my bedroom window at the city and saw lights flickering, then total darkness. For the first time I couldn’t see anything light in the distance, distance that covers many miles. In addition to the subway-like sound, all the windows rattled as if they were about to break and the grandfather clock’s pendulum was banging against the glass case wildly.

As suddenly as it started, it stopped. Surveying damage in total darkness was also an adventure with sizable aftershocks rumbling. Compact discs, videotapes, glasses, my computer, books and everything else seemed to be on the floor.

Car alarms kept going off in the distance and neighbors could be heard screaming and moaning. Unfortunately, some rushed out into the streets and onto their balconies. Earthquake officials warn that power lines snap with aftershocks and can kill individuals in the streets as can flying glass. Balconies are the least safe because they can easily separate from the main structure.

As I checked on neighbors, everyone seemed to be shaking as they walked around dazed with their flashlights, candles and radios. Fire engines and police sirens could be heard from every direction and heavy smoke covered the neighborhood. When the sun finally came out, bunker mentality set in and tons of people lined up at area grocery stores, automatic teller machines, gas stations and drug stores just as they had done two years earlier during the L.A. riots.

COPYRIGHT 1994 Johnson Publishing Co.

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