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Issue 17

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Andrea Matta
Photo: Andreas Bauer
I woke up to the loud screaming of my friend, "It is an earthquake! It is an earthquake! Get up! Get up!" I was half asleep. I didn't know what to do.


The Northridge Earthquake

Andrea Matta from Brazil

It all began during the night of January 17, 1994. It was 4 o'clock in the morning, and everybody was asleep. I woke up to the loud screaming of my friend, "It is an earthquake! It is an earthquake! Get up! Get up!" I was half asleep.

I didn't know what to do. I ran to my friend's room. She grabbed my hand and pulled me with her toward the door. We stood together hugging each other in fear underneath the door jam until the earthquake was over.

It lasted about 40 seconds, but it seemed like it never ended. The whole apartment was a mess. The cabinet door opened, and everything fell down and broke. All the pictures and plates hanging on the wall fell down and broke too. Even the TV and VCR broke.

The only things that were saved were a few dishes that were in the dishwasher. We lost all of the food that my mother had cooked for us before she and my father went back to Brazil two days before. Weren't they lucky?

I cut my foot when I got up and ran to my friend. The marble stone on top of the dresser fell down on my bed while I was sleeping. It fell one inch from my head. I think I was very lucky because it could have killed me.

When I saw all this mess I began to shake and cry. I was very, very nervous and in panic. My friend was trying to calm me down. The apartment started to shake again. My friend said, "It is the aftershocks. Don't be scared."

After a while, the aftershocks stopped, and I tried to call my family in Brazil and also my friends to find out if they were ok, but I couldn't. The phone wasn't working and there was no electricity. At that moment, I got more nervous and panicked. I felt like it was the end of the world, and I was going to die without my family knowing.

I sat down and cried like a baby and screamed to my friend, "I want my mother. I want to talk to my mother. I don't want to stay here anymore. I want to go back to Brazil." I was screaming and tears were coming down my face. My poor friend didn't know what to do to make me calm.

After I was calmer, we decided to go into the street. We grabbed a candle and ran outside. On the way out, I noticed the interior walls had cracked wide open, so that I could see the wood. The laundry room was a mess. The machines had moved all the way to the middle of the room, and there was water all over the place. The wall was cracked, and the stairs were cracked too. The glass door of the building's entrance was broken.

The more I saw of this mess, the more I panicked. Finally, we got to the street where we saw a lot of people. The whole neighborhood was on the street talking and trying to help the people who were in panic. The ambulance was there, too. A lot of people were nervous and scared.

Suddenly, people began to scream at us, "Blow out the candles! Blow out the candles!" My friend and I, without knowing why the people were screaming, blew out our candle. A woman came to us and explained that it is very dangerous because the gas lines could be broken. Can you imagine? We could have started a fire. After all this tragedy we didn't need a fire.

On the street it was very, very bad, too. Our building was completely crooked. The building beside us collapsed over the cars in the garage underneath the building. A lot of cars were smashed by the pieces of the building that fell over them.

After all this mess, my friend and I decided to go visit our friend Rose who lived very close to us. We wanted to know if everything was fine with her. She was 95 years old at that time. Her apartment was a mess too, but, thank God, she was ok. Her building was safe. Our building was condemned, so we moved in with Rose. Later, we found out that we were a few miles away from the epicenter.

In the afternoon,I was finally able to call my family in Brazil. I was very concerned because I knew they would see the news in Brazil and be worried about me. From this experience I have learned two things. If I am going to live in California, I have to be prepared for earthquakes. I also learned that people are helpful and friendly when we need them. I hope nobody has to have this same experience. I'm thankful that my friend and I are alive today.

Look Book This story was selected from Julia Karet's ESL writing project at Chaffey Community College: The Look Book Project. 

More natural disaster stories:
Earthquake in Popayan | The Taiwan Earthquake | An Extreme Storm in Moscow
A Flood in Teheran

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