Friday, January 17, 2014

Meet the Neighbors

Today is the twentieth anniversary of the Northridge earthquake.  How twenty years have gone by is just crazy to me, but, somehow they have.

I was living in Hermosa Beach, California at the time, but spending most nights at my boyfriend (now, husband)'s house in L.A..  The night before the quake, we stayed up late, knowing we had the next day off.  We noticed the cat was acting funny, but didn't think much of it.  I mean, sometimes, cats do weird things.  Poor Poo Poo Meow was trying to warn us, but we just kept laughing at him as he tried to hide under things that were way too small for him.  

We got to bed at around 1:30 or so and were woken up by a jolt that turned into heavy shaking somewhere around 4:30.  I'm not sure at what point I realized it was an earthquake, but it definitely did not register immediately.  All I knew was that it felt like the world was ending.  I could see lights flashing through my closed eyelids (transformers) and I could hear screaming.  I realized hours later, since my throat was so sore I could barely speak, that the screaming had been coming from me.  

After what seemed like hours, but was less than a minute, everything stopped.  I could barely breathe because Danny had thrown himself on top of me when it started.  Once he let go, he immediately jumped up and went into Marine mode.  He searched for his flashlight (buried) and tried to get out the (stuck) door, slipping on cracked and fallen cd cases as he went.  In my terrified state, I wasn't about to let him leave my side, so I followed him, slipping and crashing behind.  

It took a few minutes of adrenaline based shoving to get the door open and when we tumbled into the hall, we began shouting for our roommates.  Everyone looked ghostly pale in the faint light.  

Once we realized everyone was okay, we headed outside to assess the damage and get away from the wreckage in the house.  We all kind of assembled on the front lawn, none of us wanting to move too far from the others.  We kind of stood there for a little while, talking about what had happened, wondering how many aftershocks there would be (many) and wondering how trashed the house was (kinda, but livable).  

At some point, I realized I was cold.  When I looked down at what I was wearing, it turned out to be Danny's flannel shirt, unbuttoned and inside out and a pair of underwear.  I remember thinking, huh, I should probably put some clothes on...maybe some shoes, too.  It was January after all, and even in L.A., these were not weather appropriate.  No matter that I was half naked, outside on the front lawn.  We all were.  The fact that no one cared or really even noticed was just proof of how scared we all were.

I did eventually fix the shirt and get some shorts.  I might have put on shoes, but, I'm not sure.

The first coherent phrase that escaped my lips, maybe ten minutes after it all happened was "It figures that we have an earthquake on our day off!  How many Mondays do we get off?!?!".  I wasn't even trying to be funny.  I was actually pissed.

After getting over the initial shock, we started to take in our surroundings.  The next door neighbors were huddled on their front lawn, as well.  All of a sudden, we hear our roommate say to one of them:  "Hey!  Weren't you in "Tales From the Crypt"?", as if he just walked into a party and was making small talk.  The guy kind of looked at us blankly for a few seconds and then said "uh, yeah".  We found out later that he had just moved to L.A. from New York the week before.  What a welcome!  He turned out to be a nice guy and a good friend and he's now semi-famous.  But, hey.  That is L.A. in a nutshell.

The twenty four hours afterwards have become somewhat of a blur to me now, but a few other things stand out; like not wanting to sit on the toilet (feeling a porcelain tremor go up your butt is not nearly as fun as it sounds) and not wanting to sleep alone.  We all (roommates + girlfriends and assorted others) tried to sleep in the living room that night.  Mostly, we talked and joked.  I still laugh thinking of one guy moaning in his sleep every time the ground shook.  I think he was the only one who actually fell asleep before light.  

So that's it; my earthquake story, twenty years later.

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