FOX 11 Archives: One Angeleno's Northridge Quake Story - New York News

FOX 11 Archives: One Angeleno's Northridge Quake Story

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The 20th anniversary of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake has been covered by news media throughout the southland with stories that revisit the disaster; told mostly in words and pictures that quantify the quake's toll in lives and property.  I've spent the last couple of weeks viewing hundreds of videotapes of our coverage, and you can look at some of what I found by clicking on the many videos we've posted.  Rather than describing here what those pictures show so clearly, I thought I'd share with you an archive-related earthquake story.

When the temblor struck at 4:30 in the morning, it didn't awaken me.  I was living in Pasadena at the time, and the San Gabriel Valley was well east of the quake's epicenter.  That's not to say that the jolt wasn't felt over a wide area – it was – but it wasn't until I got on the freeway, headed toward Hollywood in the pre-dawn hours, that I began to witness the earthquake's impact.  Portions of the Santa Monica Freeway in West L.A. had collapsed, leading to closures in both directions that soon had traffic clogged for miles.  Cars and trucks were diverted onto surface streets, and it was slow going, with streetlights and traffic signals out of commission.

As my car crawled along Hollywood Boulevard I wondered what kind of damage I'd find when I got to the station.  I managed a 50,000 tape video archive, and I had visions of mountains of tapes on the floor.  Now in the early morning daylight I saw block after block strewn with bricks, stucco and glass.  On residential streets, it seemed that every other house had lost a chimney. As I drove onto the lot I heard (and smelled) the diesel generator, which had kicked in when city power went out.  Because we were on emergency power, not everything in the building was working, and it was dark and eerily quiet inside.  I grabbed a flashlight and went to the library, expecting to stumble across a colossal mess – but not a single tape had fallen.  Turns out a locking storage system we had installed kept the tapes in place.  We were the only station in L.A. using this method of storage, and the only one whose tape library didn't crash to the floor.

In the days and weeks that followed the quake, Southern Californians faced plenty of challenges in getting their lives back in order, and considering the lives lost and property  destroyed that day, a mountain of tapes is but a molehill.

 

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