February 9, 1971 – L.A. Has The Shakes – The Sylmar Earthquake
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February 9, 1971. If you lived in Los Angeles this day, all that was on your mind was the earthquake that tossed you out of bed around 6 in the morning, the aftershocks that continued to rumble all day and into the night. No lights, no gas, no phones – and unless you had batteries; no radio or TV – cut off from just about everybody, except those on your block, most of whom you hadn’t met before because, this was L.A. and people really don’t know their neighbors until something like this happens. And all you did was tell each other where you were and what you were doing when it hit.
So while much of Southern California was trying to find out what happened, news trickled in that it was in fact a big earthquake – not “the big one” as everyone was predicting, but pretty damn close. There were reports that the VA Hospital in the Valley was hit badly and that entire floors had collapsed, killing and trapping an unknown number inside. Similar stories were filtering in that other parts of the city were hit equally as bad. Just about every brick chimney in Los Angeles had crumbled into the street. Just about every brick building or brick facade had fallen down. Freeways were rumored to have collapsed. And every new aftershock brought new reports of damage. The eerie part was, noticing the numbers of dead birds littering sidewalks and streets; victims of crossed power lines and exploding transformers. It was the day everyone in the city was thinking the same thing at the same time; when was this going to stop?
But unless you lived in L.A. there was other news, as this broadcast of the NBC Nightly News would attest. But anything other than being turned into a nervous wreck every time the ground shook, you just weren’t paying any attention to.