January 17, 1994
Asleep on the couch at 4:30 am, I was awakened and yelling to my girlfriend, “Earthquake!” Hearing the noise of everything crashing from my kitchen cabinets, I got up to go under the door frame in the hallway. The glass china cabinet fell on my back cutting my back and legs as I fell forward. Until this day, I’m not sure how the cabinet reversed direction and was thrown off of me. I was now back on my feet. Remembering back, I was screaming, scared the floor beneath us was going to collapse from the 3rd floor. I continued to move toward the hallway when my 45-gallon aquarium exploded in front of me, glass now hitting the front of my body. I was in bad shape, thinking this was going to be the last day of my life.
Finally making it to the hallway, my girlfriend came out from the bedroom but not before a torch lamp clocked her forehead causing a knot and a concussion. We tried to open the front door, but the door frame was damaged. We were unable to exit. We could hear our neighbors banging on the door and screamed for them to break down our door. After a couple of minutes, we were in the corridor along with 15 to 20 other neighbors sitting on the floor, waiting for one of them to return to find a safe exit from the building because the nearby staircase had collapsed.
After multiple shocks, we traveled to the other side of the building where we made it down another staircase outside to the parking lot. Wearing my sweat pants and a towel to stop the bleeding on my back, legs and feet, my girlfriend drove me to the hospital. They turned me away because they were unable to accept more patients due to power loss, and my injuries were not life threatening.
We drove to my sister’s apartment only to find that she had lost everything. Across the street from my sister’s was a dirt parking lot where we camped alongside others for the next three days. People in nearby houses that had only lost power brought out first aid supplies and clothes along with their BBQ. They were actually a godsend, feeding us for the next three days while we slept in my truck.
I wished there was a book out like this one back then. I could have educated myself on how FEMA worked. About a week later after calling FEMA, the first inspector stated that he was there only for my girlfriend. I needed to go through the long phone process to get an inspector out for me. Flirting with my girlfriend, he approved her without inspecting the apartment and was actually trying to ask her out when I walked in from my truck. He stated that I had to show proof I was on the lease, but did not ask the same from her. What a scumbag! About a week later, I met my inspector, showed him a copy of my lease and, unlike my girlfriend getting instant approval, he said I would be notified by mail.
Three weeks passed and my girlfriend, sister, sister’s boyfriend and I received the long awaited approval letter for relocation assistance. I was declined for the reason that my apartment was habitable. My apartment had been red tagged by Building and Safety! My girlfriend received her $2,300 relocation assistance days earlier. In March 1994, I moved to Las Vegas, Nevada and after filing an appeal and complaint with FEMA, I finally received my relocation assistance check. #northridgeearthquake
– MICHAEL SOLOMOVICI