Thursday, January 16, 2014

Northridge Earthquake 20th Anniversary

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Northridge earthquake on January 17, 1994. The massive quake shook me, along with most Angelenos, abruptly out of slumber in the early morning hours. Soon as the quaking stopped, I quickly dressed and grabbed my camera bag along with the last 20 rolls of film from my refrigerator. The first stop would be the campus of CalTech in Pasadena, they would have first hand knowledge of where the quake was centered and how large it was. Word came in that it was a 6.7 quake centered in Northridge, which would be my next stop. The only other live news and info on the quake would come from Pete Demetriou on KFWB News 98 on the AM frequency. Pete mentioned that there was a huge fireball exploding from Balboa ave. I finally made it there to witness the 100 foot gigantic fire ball powering through street, that was also turned in to an quick running urban river due to a massive water pipe break. The heat was so intense that I had to circumvent the fire ball and shoot upwind so I could get closer.

Word was coming in on four major areas of damage, a trailer park fire, an apartment building collapse, and two major freeway collapses. I drove to the freeway collapse at the I5 freeway at the Newhall pass since it was the closest. Driving on the 5 freeway I encountered several cars driving back on the wrong side of the freeway, almost causing several head-on accidents. I soon found out why, both the I5 and 14 collapsed on to each other like fallen giants. Time Magazine quoted me about it as saying "It looked like the fall of the Roman Empire." My film supply was also running very low, had to be super selective on what I photographed. An editor from Time Magazine called me and told me I was on assignment for them, thanks to my photo agency Sygma. A film drop was organized for later that day with the other photographers on assignment. All of our film would be hand couriered to NYC for processing an editing. Most of the other photogs turned in 100 plus rolls each, I turned in 18. Was wondering what they must have seen to turn in so much film. Turns out shooting conservatively was a plus, made my film super easy to process and edit. The other photogs shot too much film to process and edit quickly for deadline. Time Magazine ran several of my images, one was even run three pages wide as a fold-out, and once again as a double-truck in the year-end issue's lead on the "Year in Images."

It was a long strange day. I eventually ran out of color slide film, and finished the day shooting black and white film which I could process and print at home.
Here's a slideshow of images on the LA Weekly webpage.

Photos by Ted Soqui © 1994
My shadow on the collapsed 14 flyover.

The I10 at La Cienega Ave.

Balboa Ave fire ball.

Local Northridge residents on Balboa Ave.

Kaiser Permante building in Northridge.

Newhall pass freeway complex.

Time Magazine Year end issue.