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A Close Shave With Nature: 6.1 Earthquake Rattles Southland

October 10, 1987

On Oct. 1, I left the house and got into my car at 7:30 a.m. I had just 30 minutes to get to work at Downey. I got onto the Harbor Freeway heading south. It was already clogged with the morning commuter traffic. So I got off at the next exit and connected to Broadway going south. Driving as fast as traffic lights and fellow commuters would permit, I stopped for the red light at 108th Street. The traffic light turned green.

My car then swayed this way and that, shook all over. "Now what," I muttered under my breathe. My salvage lemon has a way of acting up at the most awkward times and places. But as I looked at the traffic lights and utility poles and cables, they were swinging like crazy. I then realized that I had just been in an earthquake.

Looking sideways to the right, a fellow commuter was passing a cordless shaver over his chin as he looked into the rear-view mirror. I found it a trifle amazing that this gentleman could not even interrupt his shaving through this very brief moment of a close shave with destruction.

As we inched our way towards the intersection of Broadway and Imperial, my friend still shaved away as if the salvation of the world depended on his being clean-shaved.

As I cruised along, my mind drifted to other things less trivial. Just in a twinkle of an eye Los Angeles has had a very close shave with doom.

The whole sprawling juggernaut of a megalopolis could have been reduced to an extensive jumble of rubble and the Russians would not have had anything to do with it. No warning could predict it. No defense system could have protected anyone from it.

It sort of leaves one with the sobering fact that nature is still the master mover and shaker, and not a very benevolent one at that, and at whose whims and caprices everyone and everything quakes. It was a very close shave indeed.


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