"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

BEING THERE (2): "I enjoyed the ride"

     Some of the survivors can laugh about their experiences now. Murl Shaver stocked shelves for Safeway and was at the very top of a ladder when the quake hit. The ladder toppled and with canned goods pelting him, Murl had the presence of mind to leap into a display of bread. He escaped unhurt.
     Murl's brother Ray and a young girl named Connie Rencoret, who were later to marry, didn't even know each other then, but they shared the earthquake in Los Angeles.
     Ray was a junior high student in southwest L.A. and was playing tennis when the school wall in front of him disintegrated. He could feel the quakes coming in waves.
     Connie knew nothing about earthquakes. Her family had never discussed them. When her parents, two brothers, and two sisters ran into the front yard they realized Connie wasn't with them. She was sitting paralyzed by fear at the kitchen table while cupboard doors above her flew open and pots, pans and dishes fell all around her.
     Carol Winterborn was a senior at Wilson High and lived only a block from the school. She was in the bathtub and heard her mother run outside yelling for her to follow. Carol grabbed a coat and held it in front of her as she ran outside dripping. She was so panic-stricken it wasn't until her father reached home by bus that she could be coaxed back inside to put clothes on.
     Rumors flew afterward that an anonymous man had also run naked and dazed from his house. When neighbors suggested he put something on, once the big shake was over, he went into his house and came out wearing a hat.
   Bill Siler, now of Lakewood, was only five and living in Compton at the time. He was sick in bed--an iron bed on wheels. As the earthquake flung the house off its foundations, the bed crashed from one wall to another with Bill hanging on, terrified at first. In pre-Space Mountain days, that kind of ride had no equivalent. While hurtling across his room, "I could hear pots and pans and dishes falling in the kitchen," he says. "Actually I enjoyed the ride. I thought it was kind of neat."
      Bill's father was a trucker on his way home when the road started heaving beneath him. He watched telephone poles topple one after another like a line of dominoes.
     "Later," Bill Siler also recalls, "we drove through the streets and there were fallen bricks everywhere and people calling for help and crying. You could see the sides of buildings fallen away exposing bathtubs and sinks. You don't forget something like that as a child!"
     Not even as an infant. Dorothy Barnes wouldn't be two for another month but even she remembers the house shaking and her mother grabbing her by the hand to pull her outside. "We lived outside in a  tent almost until my birthday," she recalls.
     Joy Elliott was cooking dinner while her mother was at work when she heard a distinct rumble. She glanced out the kitchen door. The car was bouncing as if someone were jumping up and down on the back bumper. The lamp flickered on and off.  She took a step and the floor came up to meet her.
     In her confusion, she thought, "The Japanese are here! I'll never see my mother again!"
     When the shock wore off, she didn't mind the temporary inconveniences. "People were really great to each other after the earthquake. It takes a disaster to bring out the best in people."
     Dorotha Harmonson was a member of the class of  '33 at Poly High. On March 10 the girls' athletic group planned a potluck in the social hall with a skate afterward. Some of the girls had skated to school but Dorotha took her folks' car to a friend's house that afternoon to borrow a pair of skates.
     Sitting in the car, waiting for her friend to bring the skates out of the house, Dorotha thought schoolmates were bouncing on the car. She started to say, "Come on, you guys, cut it out!" when she realized walls were falling and people were screaming. By the time she got back to school the chemistry lab was on fire.

To be continued

Today I am thankful for sleep.

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