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Hearts of L.A. / How the Quake of '94 Rocked Our Spirits and Changed Our Lives

January 30, 1994

These are some of the stories of the earthquake. We all have such stories. They will be a permanent legacy of Jan. 17, 1994, part of our lives, family lore, recollections to be handed down to the next generation.

The earthquake struck with democratic fury. A mayor is awakened in his Brentwood mansion. A garment worker, his wife and their two small daughters are shaken awake in their apartment in a working-class neighborhood almost 20 miles to the east. A lawyer, his dentist wife and their five children, spared injury, exchange experiences with neighbors they seldom see. A physician wakes up from a nap in a Valley hospital and heads back to the emergency room to await the worst.

Some of the stories will be told far from here, by parents or grandparents who moved away after being shaken by the quake. "I really don't understand why anybody would want to stay here," a woman said. Other stories will be locked in the memory banks of the hard-core Angelenos who remained.

Times reporters listened to these voices in the days following the quake, recording memories in homes, workplaces, in the encampments of the earthquake homeless. The stories are not alike. But they have something in common--the shared values of devotion to family and duty. Those values are at the heart of the stories of the 1994 earthquake.

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