Tim Timmons | Crawfordsville, IN

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June 13, 2021

Quake left him all shook up

I'm a proud Hoosier, born and bred. Sure, we've lived in just about 10 percent of this great country, but head and heart always called me back home again to Indiana.
And this week, on 10:16 Thursday morning, we Hoosiers are being asked to participate in this year's Great Central U.S. ShakeOut!
What's the ShakeOut? It's the largest earthquake drill in these parts of this United States. It is led by local emergency management agencies, IDHS, the Indiana Geological Survey, the Indiana Department of Education, the Central United States Earthquake Consortium, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Geological Survey. What it boils down to is an opportunity to practice safety measures in the event of a large earthquake.
Take it from an Indiana boy who's been through one big earthquake too many, it's important.
Let me take you back to 1994. I was working for Freedom Communications, a late, great newspaper company that at one time was the 10th largest such company in the U.S. I can't remember how many papers we owned, but it was upwards of 70 or 80 dailies and weeklies and a handful of TV stations and magazines. They were one of the "good guys" when it came to newspapers and cared about each community where they had a presence. Like Crawfordsville. They owned the Journal Review and gave a lot back to this community before they sold it to an Alabama company in 1999. But I digress.
In '94 I was the general manager of a newspaper in North Carolina that was about the size of the old Ft. Wayne News Sentinel. I was up for a promotion and the company big boys flew me to California for a series of interviews.
I got in on Sunday, Jan. 16, flying in to John Wayne Airport in Orange County. It was my first trip to the left coast and I was pretty excited. Yeah, you can take the boy out of Indiana but . . . I was only about 30 or 40 miles from L.A., so I saw the sights and made the most of the visit while not forgetting the primary reason I was there was business.
This is before the days of cell phones and all that, so other than calling my wife and daughters back east, I was pretty much on my own until the next day. I made an early night of it so I'd be ready and raring to go for my Monday interviews.
Couple of quick notes. I was on the left coast but very much attuned to east coast time. So 4 a.m. the next morning was really 7 a.m. by my body clock. I remember thinking there wasn't much on the hotel TV at that hour and dozed on and off.
I must've dozed deeper than I thought because a little bit later I was getting irritated at my wife for shaking me awake - until I realized my wife was a couple thousand miles to the right. The next thing that happened was a surprise to me since we Hoosiers don't have much formal training in the matter of the earth moving under our feet. I jumped out of bed, avoided the picture frame that had fallen off the wall, and rushed to the hotel room door lickety split. I threw it open and braced myself in the frame.
You could tell I was a bit panicked because at that moment I didn't care that I was in my underbritches - especially since a lot of people on that floor were doing the same thing.
To this day, I can't accurately describe how long the shaking went on. I believe it was somewhere around three months but historical records indicate it was maybe 20 seconds.
The quake became known as the Northridge quake and it ended up being no laughing matter. Around 60 people lost their lives and it ended up being one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history.
So, will I be paying attention Thursday? I learned my lesson. Here's your chance to learn yours.

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