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A Look Back: 20 Years After Northridge Quake

Southern Californians remember the '94 earthquake.

Friday marked the 20th anniversary of the 6.7-magnitude earthquake that shook Southern California on January 17, 1994.

The earthquake struck the San Fernando Valley region at 4:31 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, killing 57, injuring more than 5,000 and causing more than $20 billion in property damage.

Tahsin Hyder, a student at the University of Southern California, was just five when the earthquake shook her and her brother out of their bunk bed.

"What I remember more than anything are the sounds," said Hyder. "You hear the structures in the walls starting to crack and bend, and it's just this unreal sound."

Hyder's family and their home survived the earthquake, but not everyone was that lucky. Less than a mile away, buildings crumbled on the California State University, Northridge campus. Today, remnants of the destruction can still be seen throughout Northridge.

"There's uneven pavement and cracks in a lot of the roads," said Greg Farmer, a CSUN student. "And if you look at pathways around CSUN, you can kind of see the sidewalks are off."

The deadliest building collapse occurred on the 9500 block of Reseda Blvd., where the Northridge Meadows apartment complex used to stand. Sixteen people died when the three-story building collapsed during the earthquake.

"The miracle of the whole thing is that there weren't more fatalities," said KNBC anchor Chuck Henry, one of the first Los Angeles journalists on the air after the earthquake.

He said the extent of the destruction - collapsed freeways, decimated shopping centers, flattened parking structures - was "absolutely horrifying."

Colleen Williams co-anchored those first reports of the '94 earthquake with Henry, and said it was anything but "just another news story."

"Once you live through it, it makes a lasting impression," said Williams. "9/11 stays with me like that, the bombing in Oklahoma City and the riots in L.A. But those things could be controlled. You can't control Mother Nature."

The rebuilding effort took years and cost billions of dollars, but former Mayor Richard Riordan remembers the aftermath of the earthquake as a "story of hope" that brought the people of L.A. closer together.

"Everybody got up, rebuilt their houses, rebuilt their neighbors' houses," said Riordan. "And I am proud of them for that, because they turned our city around in no time."

Los Angeles City officials said their Emergency Management Department is better equipped to handle earthquakes today, with a new alert system and a state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Center.

"It's engineered to withstand an 8.0-magnitude earthquake," explained Robert Freeman, the Operations Division Chief for the city's Emergency Management Department. "But you really need to be prepared to be on your own for up to a week after a catastrophic event, because city resources may not be available immediately."

Tahsin Hyder is confident L.A. will be ready for "the next big one."

"We survived [the] Northridge [earthquake]," said Hyder. "We'll survive whatever comes our way."

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