I woke as my husband crawled over me and whispered in my ear, “Don’t be scared, we’re having an earthquake.” As I became more alert I could feel the building shake, and as soon as the shaking subsided, my husband told me to quickly put some clothes on so we could go outside.
We had arrived in Palm Springs, CA the evening before for a reunion with my high school newspaper friends. We all had gone to school in Winnetka IL and gather together either in the Midwest or in California at least once a year. One of our group had access to a condo in Palm Springs that June, so we decided to meet there for the weekend. A few of the couples stayed at the condo, and the leftovers checked into a small two-story hotel on the Palm Springs main drag that had been around for years. The shaking that I had just experienced made me feel like I was in a building made of twigs.
Within minutes we were downstairs and out on the parking lot. We saw our other friends, and we all immediately decided to go over to the condo. At least we’d be on ground level there. It was already after five in the morning, so we didn’t need to worry about having a bed to sleep in. There would be no more sleeping for any of us that night.
The next chore was to go back upstairs, pack our belongings, and get out of the hotel for good. I think we made that happen in a record ten-minute time, and we were off.
When we arrived, the folks staying at the condo were all outside, sitting on patio chairs out on the driveway, and still in their nightclothes. We found a few more chairs and joined them. And that’s where we stayed for the rest of the day, comforting the people who were from the Midwest who had never experienced an earthquake before and telling horror stories about others we had known.
And while we sat there we knew this one, the 7.3 Landers quake, that began at 4:57 am on June 28, 1992, wasn’t over. We’d hear a roar, look down the road, and see the ground rippling as aftershock after aftershock rolled in. It was both a beautiful and terrifying sight. But, none of us would go inside to avoid it. We felt safer outside, knowing we had the ability to see the warning signs of what was coming along.
Finally, my husband and I left to go home, and we felt no more repercussions from the quake. Our house didn’t show any signs of damage either. However, the largest aftershock was yet to come – 6.4 at Big Bear, California – too far away from our home for us to feel we were in any more danger.
The Landers quake was and still is the largest one I’ve ever experienced though it is just a fraction of the 9.0 quake that just happened in Japan. In fact it was smaller than today’s 7.5 aftershock. However, it was definitely an event that made our group of former high school buddies even closer, and it colored our stories of our times together for years to come.
Causes Madeline Sharples Supports
Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center, Culver City, CA
Vistamar School, El Segundo, CA
Crossroads School, Santa Monica, CA (Endowment in...