FLASHBACK – The 1971 Sylmar Earthquake

Forty years ago this morning, Los Angeles had a shaky wake-up call. The video below is a Dragnet-esque film documentary of the event made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. No, Charlton Heston does not make a cameo.

“(The film Earthquake! documents)… the San Fernando Valley, California earthquake of 1971 with a focus on the rescue efforts and a hospital collapse. Federal disaster relief had just been increased and the Office of Emergency Preparedness formed, and the film shows how they addressed their first major disaster. California Governor Ronald Reagan and US Vice-President Spiro Agnew appear adding an interesting historical note to this clip.”

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7 Responses to “FLASHBACK – The 1971 Sylmar Earthquake”

  1. Escott says:

    This is amazing footage! I remember this morning well, we lived in a home my dad built on top of a hill in Eagle Rock. Our bedrooms were cantilevered over the side, so we had quite a ride! My 3 year old brother was saying, “theres a monster shaking my bed!” but we luckily had no damage. It was the first earthquake I remember feeling, and still the one I compare to. While I knew it was big, as a kid I didn’t really get the full scope of it until seeing this doc. Thanks!

  2. michele says:

    I was a toddler: my aunt recorded me on a cassette when asked what happened, saying (sadly) “there was a earthquake” and when asked what happened next, I said “mommy quick put me in the car and go to Meme’s (my grandmother’s) house” . . . Yeah, that staying off the roads after a disasster went RIGHT out the window . . .

  3. ellenk says:

    Oooooh! I remember this! My first big earthquake. But we didn’t have to go to school the next day so I thought it was pretty cool. So yeah, I wasn’t the brightest kid.

  4. Tom says:

    I remember thinking,(dreaming),that I was sleeping in a moving car.

  5. TJ Laux says:

    I was a hospital corpsman at the Santa Margarita Ranch Navy Hospital at Camp Pendleton. I was unceremoniously thrown from my upper bunk in the barracks. The barracks was at least 100 miles from the center of the earthquake. This is something I’ve never experiences before or since. Made a permanent impression on me. All my sympathy and prayers still go out to the unfortunate victimes of the tragedy.

  6. tru leigh says:

    I lived in Sylmar in ’71. I had just turned 14 the day before.
    The earthquake was unbelievable. We didn’t have electricity for 11 days, and that was the first thing that came back. Water, and phones took several months. Gas took 3 months.

    I also went through the ’94 Northridge quake. Good times, good times.

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