17 Jan

Northridge earthquakeJanuary 17 is the 20 year anniversary of the Northridge earthquake. I remember it clearly. I lived in a triplex in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles and at 4:31 am the entire building shook like a giant maraca. I was awakened out of a deep sleep, and all I knew to do was to cover my head with my blankets!

During the day I walked over to the Hollywood area and saw a four or five story apartment building that had lost one entire side. Just gone. The structure looked like an oversized dollhouse with all the furnishings still there. Surreal. My neighbor’s house outside my kitchen window was equally surreal. The brick chimney was a pile of bricks in the yard and what was formerly a back deck was split off from the house at an odd angle. Oblique sculpture.

Metaphorically one can experience earthquake-like life events that are equally jolting. In my case, the sudden death of my best friend and my mother’s attempted suicide within the same year created seismic readjustments of large Richter magnitude.

What life events have jolted you to the core? How did you cope?

Photo of the Santa Monica Library, Fairview Branch, following the Northridge Earthquake, courtesy library archives.


Posted by on January 17, 2014 in Uncategorized


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2 responses to “Earthquake!

  1. Bruce McGovern

    January 20, 2014 at 4:42 am

    My first major earthquake was in 1999 in my wife’s village in the Central Highlands of Mexico. This is the village which has the oral tradition that Moctezuma’s treasure was hidden. I assumed it was just another wild legend, until I read Bernal Diaz’ book. He indicated most of the treasure was NOT lost in the lake, but either carried out by 80 bearers and given to Cortes, or rescued from the lake by Aztecs.

    And, it was an estimated 700,000 pesos, which figures out to nearly 20 tons of gold and jewels.

    Even if the 80 bearers were heavily laden, there was about 15 tons saved.

    So, for the first time I began to believe it may well be out here. The family Moctezuma family were owners of land, and a large house/fort here, so from military strategy it would have been the most logical place to put it.

    A lot of treasure seekers are convinced that the treasure was taken north out of Aztec country to New Mexico or Arizona. That would have been stupid, so I don’t even consider the possibility.

    Anyway, the instant the shaking started, I understood earthquakes perfectly. I worked on pseudorandom vibration tables at Collins and the sound was exactly the same.

    Part of the Moctezuma house was damaged, the small part that hadn’t been damaged before. And, a few stone fences were shaken down. But, overall not much damage. My theory was, the soft travertine marble here absorbs the shock by crushing not by breaking things.

    It was not an especially frightening experience.

  2. Ellen Bowers

    January 20, 2014 at 4:52 am

    I enjoy your reflections and stories, Bruce. I wasn’t frightened by earthquakes either. They’re over quickly and a piece of cake compared to tornadoes.


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