Framework

1994 Northridge earthquake

In the overview of the Los Angeles Times book “4:31 – Images of the 1994 Los Angeles Earthquake,” J. Michael Kennedy wrote:

In the darkness of early morning, as the city still slept, an act of heart-stopping violence swept across Los Angeles. It moved into every corner of the landscape, into every home, into every life.

The earthquake, more destructive than any other in the modern history of the city, struck at 4:31 a.m. Jan. 17, 1994. Officially, it lasted only 10 seconds. But those seconds were a lifetime for the millions who felt its brutish strength crumple the earth and trample dreams.

 The earthquake had the power to destroy highways, turn parking lots into rubble, send a lifetime of mementos crashing to the floor and bring on financial ruin.

It killed and injured with caprice. The little girl swept down the hill to her death. The teen-age boy crushed under tons of debris. The police officer, with motorcycle lights flashing, falling to his death through the unseen chasm opened on a freeway overpass.
In all, 57 died in the quake, originally pegged at 6.6, but later calculated at an even more powerful magnitude. Thousands were injured and thousands more left homeless…

The Northridge earthquake, as it was quickly named, struck in the heart of the San Fernando Valley. The wrenching of the earth began 10 miles underground, and its deadly shock waves embarked on a long, destructive march through Southern California.

For the first time in history, virtually all of Los Angeles was blacked out. But the effects were also felt as far away as rural Idaho, where 150,000 customers lost power as a result of the quake.

Millions were rousted from their beds as the bucking of the quake turned homes into the scariest of rides. And as one young girl would describe it, the quake left her house looking as if a wild, angry bear had been set loose inside.

From the Northridge Meadows apartments came the cries of those who were trapped in the rubble of first floor apartments crushed in the earthquake.

“Help me, please, help me,” came a pleading voice from deep beneath the debris. And then, silence. When the search of the apartments was complete, 16 bodies would be recovered….

Right after the 4:31 a.m. earthquake, Los Angeles Times journalists were in the field with non-stop coverage that lasted months. For its earthquake coverage, the Los Angeles Times won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Reporting.

The above quoted Los Angeles Times book was published in February 1994. A later estimate of dead and injured was reported in this 1995 Los Angeles Times story: Study Raises Northridge Quake Death Toll to 72. This later story also reported more than 11,000 injured.

scott.harrison@latimes.com

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