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Hearts of L.A. / How the Quake Rocked Our Spirits and Changed Our Lives : COPING WITH CHAOS : 'In the shock of it, I just held my breath. . . .'

January 30, 1994|Ron Martin | Martin, 38, is a television post-production engineer at MCA Universal Studios and lives in Simi Valley. and

I was still half-asleep when I realized I was completely in midair.

It was like the house had raised up and dropped just enough that I was no longer in contact with my mattress. That brought me around to consciousness, but in the shock of it, I just held my breath out of pure panic.

I reached over and found that my wife had already gotten out of bed and was crawling toward our kids' bedroom. I just lay there, riding it out, holding my breath.

When the shaking wound down, I grabbed my flashlight and surveyed the room: bookcase down, TV on the floor, the draperies off the windows.

And I'm still holding my breath.

I could hear my wife calling to my kids because there was so much debris in the hallway that she couldn't get to them. It was time for me to be the man of the house and settle everybody down.

Of course, I'm still holding my breath.

I jump from bed, leap the bookcase and take four steps down the hall. By now my wife and two daughters have met in the hallway. The kids are screaming and my wife is trying to settle them. And I still haven't breathed.

That was my last conscious moment.

I woke up utterly delirious. My kids were still screaming because they saw me take a few steps and then go down. I guess I passed out from lack of oxygen.

I tried to orient myself, but had no idea where I was. It took me a long time to figure out why I wasn't in bed and was instead in the hallway. Then I kind of remembered and crawled around.

I couldn't help but laugh and ask, "What happened?" They said they thought I had maybe seen our cat or dog squashed and that caused me to pass out. I told them: "No, I just stopped breathing." They said, "What a fool thing to do."

It was pretty embarrassing and frustrating. I wanted so much to show them that they could put their confidence in me in an emergency, and the next thing I know, I'm waking up on the floor.

I'm not sure what I'll do in the next quake. Friends suggested hypnotherapy that tells me, "When the house shakes, inhale," or have a small oxygen mask close by. My wife said I should crawl slowly on the floor instead of trying to run around the house doing everything.

Oddly enough, I did the same thing in the '71 earthquake. I got up out of bed and held my breath until I passed out.

My daughters love kidding me about this. The younger one, who's 8, says she's a little nervous about going back to school and talking to her friends. When they tell stories about how heroic their dads were, she's going to have to tell them:

"I had to resuscitate my dad."

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