18 years since my life was changed forever

today marks 18 years since the Northridge Earthquake.  since the day  we were startled awake at 4:31 am with a huge jolt, slamming shutters and furniture falling and crashing down to the floor.  in a house where my mom was an earthquake readiness preparedness nut we were still helpless.  our furniture had fallen in that 6.7 magnitude quake and kept us from leaving our beds and rooms.  we couldn’t get to our earthquake kits.  our dog, Chloe was trapped in the laundry room under detergent bottles that flew out of the cupboards.  my dad’s feet were cut up from running across broken glass from the mirrored bar that shattered everywhere just to get Chloe so she wasn’t alone.  WE WERE PREPARED AND IT DID NOT MATTER.

that earthquake took every wedding gift that my parents had. when they celebrate their 4oth wedding anniversary in 8 weeks it will be without a single wedding gift salvaged, which breaks my heart. not many people make it to 40 years of marriage and how sad that they have not one original memory from that day except THANK GOD pictures.

pieces of furniture were moved across the floor.  and most of all, my innocence was lost forever.  i learned that day as we sat outside in front of our house (because it wasn’t safe to stay inside) that my mom and dad couldn’t fix anything. they didn’t know everything and that a natural disaster makes us all equal.  equally lost. equally scared and equally fearful of the unknown.

i was supposed to leave that day 1/17/94 to return to my freshman year at Sonoma State University.  i was an 18-year-old high with freedom, miserable at home over winter break and on the very last day i was supposed to be home my world was rocked.  on that day, and since that day i’ve often wondered and we’ve discussed how awful it would’ve been had i gone home the night before. how it would’ve felt to be alone and unable to reach them.  how i would have never seen or understood the fear that they felt that day.  how i would not understand any of what they had been through.  i never slept another night in that house.  i don’t know that i could have. after you live through a big earthquake you start to feel phantom quakes.  you don’t know what’s actually shaking (cause there are always a lot of aftershocks) or the ones you’re just imagining.   just being in the house cleaning up in the days that followed I was terrified. i had flashbacks and i couldn’t breathe.

as i sit here 18 years later remembering that day i can’t help but think how it was half my life ago. i’m 36 years old today, and exactly half a lifetime ago my life was rocked to its core. did it change who i am? did it change who i’ve become? did it change what i would’ve done? how could it not.  i will always worry when i go to bed on a sunday night that monday morning i will be awakened with a jolt.  i won’t ever be able to be a in public venue without searching for my nearest exits and an escape plan.  i will never know what my life would be like without the Northridge Earthquake, but at least i’m here to talk about it and share my experiences.

57 people were not so lucky, 57 people died that day IN MY OWN NEIGHBORHOOD from an earthquake I SURIVIVED. do i feel guilty, sometimes.  do i look at that number in horror, ALWAYS.  how was i so lucky? how were those poor college students so unlucky to have been crushed in their beds in their apartments while they slept less than a few blocks from my home.  this is something that i think about all the time. i guess its called survivors guilt.  why did i survive when 57 people died?

so today, in their memory, take a minute or 57 seconds, hug your kids, your loved ones, your pets. pick up the phone and call someone you haven’t talked to in a while.  or just take 57 seconds of silence in their memory.  – Traci xoxo

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3 Responses to 18 years since my life was changed forever

  1. Jess says:

    What an incredible post. So moving. I can’t imagine how terrified yall were. I’m so glad you were with your parents and you were all safe.

  2. Kari says:

    I was lucky that day that I was already up in Sonoma when it hit and not down South, but I remember it very well too and wondering about all of my friends and/or G Phi Bs that were still there. What I remember most was that apartment buidling, and how that could have been anywhere, and anyone. Interestingly enough the house that I live in now was rebuilt in 1991 as the original house on the property was destoryed in the 1989 quake. I’m hoping that the worst has already happened there. Thinking of you today.

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