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The Quake Still Hits Home--Hard : Emotional aftershocks rumble on in a quiet West Adams neighborhood that was left nearly silenced by the effects of the Jan. 17 temblor.

October 02, 1994| Mattie Dyer Martin, 56, and her husband Alvin, 62, have lived in their West Adams-area home for 22 years. But after the Jan. 17 Northridge earthquake, their block and large sections of the surrounding neighborhood were turned into a "ghost town"--the name given to areas so devastated by the temblor that they are uninhabitable until they have undergone extensive repairs. Six houses in the ghost town were damaged beyond repair and have been torn down. Some others and an apartment building stand empty. The Martins' home suffered serious damage, though they are able to live in it now after costly repairs. Mattie Martin was interviewed by Mike Wyma. and

It's very depressing. The people who are gone, they were my friends. You're used to seeing your neighbors.

Two of them (who have left) were my nieces. Seeing their house torn down was awful. I've cried many times. When I was a little girl my aunt and uncle lived in that house. I was there all the time. I had my birthday parties there. My nieces have found another place to live. They're not coming back. It's just a big empty lot. It means nothing now.

For a long time after the quake, one man whose house was wrecked would come and sit in front of his house all day in his car. Another one would come and park and just walk up and down smoking a pipe.

Hopefully, something will be done in these empty spaces. I hope they don't put up apartments. You can get some pretty lousy tenants.

Before the empty houses were torn down, homeless people were sleeping in some of them. Things were stolen, too. One man had his house jacked way up off the foundation and people broke in two nights in a row and stole all the china that belonged to his late wife. They took his two shotguns and other stuff.

Another man, they stole his washer and dryer. I saw the U-Haul truck and I thought, "Oh, Maurice is getting his furniture out." But it was the stealers. It was broad daylight. Who'd have thought?

How they got his washer and dryer, I don't know. That house was almost tumbled down. They were crazy to go inside. It looked like you'd give it one little push and what was left would fall down. Maurice, I talked to him about a month ago and he's just lost. He still doesn't know what he's going to do. He's past 80 and suddenly he can't stay there anymore. I think he's living with family.

Our block seems to have gotten it the worst around here. It's weird because it seems to have come through here on an angle. My niece's house just dropped off its foundation. One of my nieces couldn't get out. She was stuck inside there. A friend had to kick the door away from the frame.

One man's main gas line broke. You could hear the hiss and smell the gas. But it was early in the morning. You couldn't see anything. We were without gas and electricity for three days. The water wasn't drinkable. My son went and got me three gallons of water and it was $7.

We had a TV with batteries and I'd get so upset watching. They just talked about Northridge and the Valley, the problems there. But we had terrible problems here. Up and down the street people were sleeping in cars. You couldn't get water. You couldn't get a cup of coffee. Everything was closed. When you finally did find a place open, they were out of what you needed.

For me, moving sounded real good. I wouldn't have cared where it was. I just wanted to get the hell away from California. My husband said, "We won't be able to see our grandkids every day." I said, "That's OK, I'll fly in." But he said, "No, it makes more sense to stay."

My husband is not a person who scares easily. But he'll tell you now that he was scared to death. Not that you could tell it then.

I was a basket case. I went to the doctor because my nerves were just shattered. The earthquake was on a Monday and by that Friday I'd lost eight pounds. I just couldn't eat. I just stayed close to my husband. If he was out of my sight for two minutes, I went and found him.

I don't think this has brought us any closer because we've always been exceptionally close. When we go out, we've had people say it looks like we're really enjoying ourselves. Total strangers tell us. But it's made me a little more dependent on him and more grateful for the care he took of me. He won't let me out of his sight for five minutes.

I still feel apprehensive. I feel we're going to keep having earthquakes and it's going to be worse. It's a combination of the experience of the quake and the aftershocks, plus seeing the damage every day. I feel the least little jolt and it all comes up again.

I used to be a crystal salesperson. I had $2,000 or $3,000 worth of crystal. It's all gone. The floor was covered with broken glass. My son was scooping it up and he said, "Mom, at least we don't have to worry about washing this darn crystal any more." The city brought a big trash container and it was half full of broken glass.

We have three girls and a boy. The family has been just beautiful. One of my daughters was over here every day.

We did not get knocked off the foundation but we did have lots of damage. We have a high estimate of $47,000 and a low one of $30,000 for repairs. We've already done the retrofitting. That was $6,500. That was to keep the house stable so it doesn't shake off the foundation in aftershocks. We've been accepted for a loan and we're pretty sure about a contractor. He did our retrofitting. He's doing the houses on both sides of us.

The fireplace was a mess. We had the chimney taken down and the hole patched. That was $650. The block wall in the back yard came down. That was $4,000 to replace, but one side is still open and people are just walking through. It's scary. You're just sitting there and some weirdo goes through.

Our house is paid for. I don't want to get a loan and be in debt for 18 years. But that's what we've got to do.

I do feel good about one thing. We were very blessed because no one was killed.

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