If Lysbet Wright had paused to think about what was happening, if she had stopped to ask whether a slight, middle-aged woman could actually do what she ultimately did, both Wright and her frail, elderly mother might not have escaped Tuesday's earthquake alive.
When the shaking began, they were at home in their Victorian home in Los Gatos, a grand, century-old structure built by a New England railroad magnate. It had survived many temblors--including the devastating 1906 quake--virtually unscathed.
This time however, the old mansion met its match. The wooden walls and floors of the living room collapsed around Wright. An exquisite Steinway piano, a gift from her late father, who had been a concert pianist, slid across the room and smashed against a wall. Two huge bookcases tumbled across the doorway, blocking Wright's exit from a room that had suddenly become a tangle of crumbled floors and fallen beams.
Worse yet, as the home was torn from its concrete foundation, gas lines ruptured. Gas whistled as it rushed from an exposed pipe, threatening to explode.