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Los Angeles Times Special Quake Report: One Year Later : Still Shaken / Voices : From the Epicenter to D.C.: Reflections on the Devastation : OMER SCARPIDIS

On Tuesday, a year after Omer Scarpidis, 57, and his wife, Ilona, 45, rode their Studio City house down a hill as it slid off its foundations, they will break ground on a new home. That the Scarpidises and Ilona’s father, Carl Busmans, were able to escape the wreckage is considered nothing short of miraculous. Six months before the quake, the couple had taken out a policy on the house that insured full replacement value in the event of a temblor.

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Right after the quake, people said, ‘Are you going to come back?’ And I said, no way. But after a week or two weeks, I say, why not? Look at the beautiful view I had for 30 years. How could I go? . . .

We lost over $400 , 000 worth of contents, nothing was saved. We didn’t even have clothes. The house was broken into 100,000 pieces, like a potato chip. . . . Nobody could understand how we lived. Sometimes you believe in God. . . . I wanted to find my doggies, and I found one. But my other dog, he was cut in half, that was more painful than losing my home.

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On Jan. 17, we’re going to start breaking the ground to build a new house. We had a good insurance company, and they are going to take care of it; it could cost $600,000 to $700,000 to build. I’m very lucky, my house was free and clear, I had just made my last payment, and six months before I bought the best earthquake insurance anyone can have, full replacement insurance.

My wife says, ‘Why do we have to build a house up there?’ I’ll tell you. . . . I lived in that house for 30 years. It’s a beautiful location, you see the whole Valley. That kind of lot you don’t find too often. I feel like I’m attached to it--after you live so many years there, you don’t want to leave. I wish I could say, let’s go and find and buy another house with the money, but I don’t think I want to. I still want to go back to my property. I feel I grew up there.

A lot of people say, ‘Why do you want to go there? How are you going to sleep the first night?’ I say, it’s going to be difficult, but we still have to go live there, after 30 years.

The house is going to be completely different. It’s going to be stronger. It used to be on a stilt, now it’s going to be more like concrete, and we hope it’s going to be stronger. . . .

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