It took only a fraction of a second to pound William Plummer's life into a pile of debris.
It had taken Plummer 12 years to build up his auto repair business in an old building on the outskirts of historic Old Pasadena. In an instant, it was gone.
"Everything I own is here," Plummer said as he surveyed a pile of brick and timber that once was his business. "You're looking at my life."
Plummer, the owner of Fair Oaks Automotive at 101 S. Fair Oaks Ave., appeared to be one of the people in Pasadena hit hardest by last Thursday's earthquake.
In many ways, he was lucky to escape with his life.
At the first sound of crashing bricks, Plummer and the two mechanics working with him dashed out the door. "I was just crossing the sidewalk when the whole building came down," he said.
Mechanic Dave Adams described it as an "explosion" of wood beams and brick.
The building apparently collapsed under the weight of bricks falling from a building next door that was being renovated.
In the aftermath of the quake, Plummer, a Walnut resident, has quickly begun picking up the pieces of his life.
"Your whole living is destroyed," Plummer said. "What are you going to do?"
On Friday, he and his employees, who have continued to receive paychecks despite the devastation, removed most of the equipment and tools left inside the building.
Tom Ward, the owner of an auto repair shop next door, has let Plummer start setting up shop in a small building on his property.
Propped up on the ground near Plummer's makeshift shop is a "Fair Oaks Automotive" sign salvaged from the old building.
In the past few days, Plummer and his employees have spent much of their time trying to clean up and organize the business so that they can start repairing cars again.
Plummer, who estimated the damage at several hundred thousand dollars, said he plans to continue paying his workers while he prepares to reopen his shop, perhaps by next week.
'Still Have a Job'
"I just cut them a check," he said. "I'm going to try to carry them for as long as I can."
Adams said: "One of the first things he said after the quake was 'You still have a job.' I'm not going to walk out on the man."
Adams and other employees have stood watch over the collapsed building each night from a mobile home parked nearby.
Meanwhile, Plummer, who had no earthquake insurance, has begun searching the area for a permanent place to work, preferably near his old shop.
"I ain't a quitter," Plummer said. "We'll get it going again."