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Hearts of L.A. / How the Quake Rocked Our Spirits and Changed Our Lives : BINDING THE WOUNDS : 'I feel fortunate that I'm alive.'

January 30, 1994|David Cole | Cole, 30, is an electrician who lives in Northridge. He suffered a broken hip when the roof of Gold's Gym in Northridge caved in during the quake. and

I was working out at Gold's Gym in Northridge. All of a sudden, everybody jumped up and the building started shaking and everybody took off running. I already had a broken leg, I was on crutches, and I couldn't run out of the building, so I dove under a piece of equipment and I was holding on to the bench. The next thing I knew, the whole ceiling, not just the ceiling but the roof, came in on top of me.

The bench protected my head, but my hip was sticking out and it got busted. After a couple of minutes of sitting there underneath the debris, I started yelling and one of the guys who works at Gold's came in with another guy and dug me out of the debris and pulled me into the parking lot.

They flagged down a chief of the fire department who was driving around and asked him if we could get an ambulance. The chief said there's no ambulances and no fire engines right now, and we don't even know if (Northridge Hospital Medical Center) is still standing; so they gave me a ride to my house. That was probably around 5. I was in severe pain, pain like you couldn't believe. I couldn't move.

One of the guys from the gym helped me out of the truck. They pulled a couch out of the house and stuck it in the driveway. I stayed on the couch while the tremors kept going by and figured out what I was going to do.

Two of my roommates threw me and the couch in the van and took me to (Northridge Hospital Medical Center) emergency. It was a pretty scary experience being in that parking lot with 200 other people, screaming and yelling and being in pain. I wasn't in Vietnam, but you picture a war zone with people all over the place like that. I was looking up, I was sitting on a bed, and then all of a sudden this helicopter came flying over. Then they accepted me into emergency and gave me some medication for the pain.

Actually, this hospital looked pretty good considering the rest of the San Fernando Valley. There were nurses who would come in and tell me how it was a new building, built on wheels to withstand all of the pressure, that it was made for earthquakes and stuff like that.

But to tell you the truth, I still can't wait to get out of here because with the tremors it feels like the whole building moves three feet one way and three feet the other and you just don't know what's going to happen. When you're lying in bed with a broken leg, you have no control over your body and it's pretty terrifying.

I'd already been laid up from October from my last break. The reason for going to the gym was to get my body in shape to go back to work. And then all of a sudden, the ceiling falls down on me and busts my leg again (he laughs). This is going to put me out for 2 1/2 or three more months.

I feel fortunate that I'm alive because I've seen pictures of where I was at the gym, and if I (had been) two feet in another direction I wouldn't be here talking to you, OK? And if I wasn't smart enough to jump underneath that bench at Gold's Gym, I'd be in worse shape than I am. I got off lucky with a broken hip.

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