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Quake Survivors Meet Their Rescuer

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was a super Sunday for Jerry Prezioso and Steve Langdon, all right--but not for the reasons one would think.

The roommates in the Northridge Meadows building finally got to meet the reserve cop who tunneled and hefted “like the Incredible Hulk” through the rubble on a dark Monday morning to find them trapped but alive.

“Hey, I really gotta thank you,” Prezioso told Don Stein, the Los Angeles reserve police officer. “We were in there five hours before anyone heard us.”

The roommates met Stein for the first time in Prezioso’s room in the Northridge Hospital Medical Center. The two men were just voices in the dark on Jan. 17, when Stein was looking for survivors, and heard screams.

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Lifting huge pieces of concrete, stucco and wood, Stein said he “felt like the Incredible Hulk. My adrenaline was pumping, and I wasn’t worried about what could happen to me if another shaker hit while I was in the rubble.”

Once he located Prezioso, he was stunned by his composure.

“He had a sense of humor you wouldn’t believe. A building was sitting on this guy, and he wasn’t scared or spooked or anything!” said Stein, who summoned the firefighters who rescued the men.

Prezioso and Langdon talked Sunday with the same humor that saw them through the hours when they were trapped face-down by the floor above them.

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“It’s a good way to break a lease, don’t you think?” said Prezioso, 67. “Hey, you gotta have humor in tragedy. . . . I can’t help that. I’m a New Yorker.”

Langdon was hospitalized for a time and Prezioso is still in the medical center, where he was sent with injured legs and nails in his body.

As he was removed from the collapsed building, Prezioso remembers saying: “Now I can watch the Super Bowl.” But the men paid little attention to Sunday’s game. “There’ll be a lot of other Super Bowls,” Prezioso said. “This night is more important.”


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