The Northridge Earthquake

Nicholas Sartor

The Northridge Earthquake

The Northridge Earthquake


"Imagine yourself inside a shoebox that is being shaken by a giant. Add to it loud, thunderous noises, the shattering of glass, and the slamming of doors. My heart was in a panic. I knew it was an earthquake as I jumped from my bed. My feet tried desperately to grip the floor but it was like I was trying to run across a moving roller coaster." Confusion and panic jolted Los Angeles area residents from their sleep as a massive earthquake created widespread destruction collapsing area homes, buildings, and a portion of the Interstate 10 freeway. A 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck the San Fernando Valley on January 17, 1994 at 4:31 AM. Known as the Northridge earthquake, it remains the fastest ground moving earthquake ever recorded in North America.


My mother, Stacy Sartor, is the person trying to run across that moving roller coaster. She and my dad had been sleeping in the second floor bedroom of their Glendale apartment when the first vibrations shocked them awake. Her first thought was to save a piece of Lladro that my dad had just given her for Christmas. She jumped from her bed and tried keep her balance as the floor rocked under her feet. Grabbing hold of the walls to keep from falling she ran into the second bedroom to try and save the piece of LLadro. Before she could get there, she was blinded as the power went off. She heard the little porcelain figure fall and break.


Immediately following the earthquake, a 6.0 aftershock slammed the Los Angeles area for a second time causing even more panic among residents. This after-shock created almost as much damage as the earthquake itself. A second after-shock startled residents once again eleven hours after the initial earthquake. My parents saw horrible damage everywhere as they drove to Encino to check on a friend who had been hard hit by the earthquake and was without gas, water, or power. On the drive there they had to use side streets since all of the freeways were shut down. They could see chimneys crumbled down to the ground, storefront windows shattered onto the pavement, buildings that had collapsed, and gas pipes that had exploded sending flames into the air.


After the Northridge earthquake, my parents prepared an emergency kit which is kept in the basement of our house. Our family also keeps emergency flashlights plugged into outlets in the main rooms of our home. We keep an emergency radio, back-up batteries, and a supply of fresh drinking water as well. My mother told me ''always be prepared with emergency supplies ready and have a system for communicating with family.'' She also recalled during the interview ''We didn't know how big of an earthquake it really was.''



A man rides his bike through the devastation of the Northridge earthquake