On the morning of February 9, 1971 at 6:01 AM the earth shook at a magnitude of 6.5 on what was then the Richter Scale. The community of Sylmar in the northern San Fernando Valley felt it the most as did the city of San Fernando which is adjacent to Sylmar.
The quake was likely the most significant in US history given not only what happened, but what happened afterward.
The quake took 64 lives and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. Lives and businesses were destroyed. Two hospitals were destroyed, including the Veterans hospital which was the scene of the greatest loss of life.
Aging veterans were trapped beneath the rubble while the newly opened Olive View Hospital fell apart. At the same time the Van Norman Dam, which overlooked the flat lands of the San Fernando Valley was on the verge of breaking. Some 80-thousand people had to be evacuated.
Survivors still tell their stories which we featured here and in our Documentary film. The community never fully recovered.
What came out of Sylmar were the following; the development of Urban Search and Rescue Teams, The Citizens Emergency Response Teams and within a few years the state of California made it mandatory for insurance companies to offer quake insurance to home owners. This is in addition to changes in building codes which follow nearly every quake.
Sylmar was a wake up call, and the rest of the world owes a debt to those who survived and those who gave their lives.