As I was having my coffee this morning, Michael Bolton’s song came on, and I was flooded with a comforting memory.
One early morning just before dawn, on January 17th, 1994 at 4:31 am the Northridge earthquake slammed Southern CA at a magnitude of 6.7. It woke me from a sound sleep. The motion was a jolting up and down, not the side to side rocking I experienced from previous quakes like the Sylmar one in 1971; I was only 5 years old during that one and remember it well. Our house was on a raised foundation and there was more of a shimmy kind of swaying. Our house creaked and rocked back and forth for a time after the quake ended.
No, this one was different! It felt like King Kong picked up my apartment and shook it up and down for 20 seconds. The sound of glass breaking and furniture banging was loud, and there was this eerie feeling as I smelled the mixture of perfumes that spilled from the broken bottles.
It felt like forever before I could take a solid step. My first attempt was met with the ground pitching me up and slamming me down to my knees, instantly skinning both from the force of the rug scraping them.
Twenty seconds felt like forever as the loud rumbling, and crashing sounds continued in that small, dark apartment as my 4-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son were screaming, “Mommy! Mommy!” As soon as there was a break, I Instinctively remembered to grab the emergency flashlight radio from under my night table. I crawled over to the living room yelling at the kids to stay where they were and to let me come to them; they were in their bunk beds terrified! Jessica kept asking, “Is it coming back?” I had no real answer for her except a half truth, “No, baby, it’s all over!”
When I was finally able to get to them, we made it safely to the doorway and held one another. Then, we crawled to be together more comfortably under the dining room oak table. I knew I needed to turn the radio on to get information to see how bad it was all around us. Kyle was sweet and tried to be brave and helpful with turning on that radio. I was scared, and then we had our first moment of peace.
The first sound that came from that emergency radio was not an emergency announcement, it was a song by Michael Bolton. His voice was calm, comforting and temporary relief from all the thrashing… Hearing him sing made us feel normal for a moment as if nothing had happened.
“You came to me like the dawn through the night
Just shinin’ like the sun
Out of my dreams and into my life
You are the one, you are the one
Said I loved you, but I lied
‘Cause this is more than love I feel inside
Said I loved you, but I was wrong
‘Cause love could never ever feel so strong
Said I loved you, but I lied…”
It’s the first track on this link I posted. We listened, and for a moment I felt peace, love, and unity. I felt the kids relaxing a bit under the weight of my arms. We just listened.
A simple song cut through the fear for a minute and gave us a moment to catch our breath. Next, we went outside, Jessica in my arms, clinging, frozen with her body wrapped tightly around my neck and torso. She wasn’t letting go for anything. We peeked outside our front door, and it was pitch black except the stars; there were so many! WIthout a single city light, the stars were brighter than I had ever imagined possible.
Thank God my kids were always fascinated with stars and I could talk about something good from all of this mess that fell on us. I sat them down in the front door way and did my best to calm them with stories about the stars and promises that everything would get better from here on out. The worst was over.
Every now and then I’ll hear a Michael Bolton song. I would feel an urge to turn up the song as if it as an anthem song to connect me with my kids during our most terrifying time that had been comforted by Michael Bolton’s voice. Songs have a way of taking us back to revisit a significant time in life.
On September 3rd, my daughter and I will be taking our seats front row and center at his concert in Las Vegas. She was so happy when I told her about it. She said, ‘ Mom, I have the best memories with his songs” Times together just you and me and Kyle in that apartment.” She said she had the best memories then. She remembers that song and the earthquake. We will be giving him thanks, and he won’t even have an inkling of what those two ladies in the front row will be remembering and thanking him for.
I still love this man’s voice because It has calmed me on many occasions. Not one of his songs makes me feel a connection to a bad memory; only good.
“The Earthquake Song” That’s what I call it <3