FACES OF THE BANKRUPTCY : GAYLE CLANTON, 48, COSTA MESA

They were all Orange County employees until the bankruptcy opened a trapdoor beneath them, sending their lives tumbling into uncertainty. The Times told the stories of 50 such workers in March. One year after the bankruptcy, we revisit eight of them below.

Gayle Clanton felt as if her world were collapsing, a disintegration that began when she was handed a pink slip.

She thought her decade of dedicated service would shield her from layoffs at the county registrar of voters office. She was wrong. That bombshell was followed in short order by two family crises that made her fiscal worries seem trivial.

Two weeks after she lost her job, her husband had a massive heart attack. He had been working more than he should have to make up for her lost income. "He died several times on the table," Clanton remembers, but was alive when the five bypass operations were complete.

A month later, the couple's pregnant daughter was found to have toxemia, a blood condition that meant her baby would have to be delivered prematurely. Clanton herself underwent surgery for tendon problems that arose after a decade as a data entry worker. During sleepless nights, she wondered what had happened to her life.

"It was a terrible, terrible time," she said. "Maybe we had it too easy for several years, maybe we were being a little too smug in our life. Then everything got yanked out from under us."

Ten months after losing her job, Clanton and her family have found their feet again. Her husband and daughter have recovered. She is also back working for the county, doing similar work although she took a demotion. The pay is less and she said the work lacks the challenges she enjoyed in her old post.

"But I'm glad just to be working," she said. "Sometimes people at work complain. . . . I tell them, 'You don't know what it's like out there. You have a job, so just do it. Be thankful.' "

Clanton is grateful for the income, but she concedes that she is not the same employee she was before. No longer is she an eager volunteer for overtime or extra work, and she feels she must keep looking over her shoulder for the ax that may fall again.

"I always did more than was expected of me, I never called in sick, and what did it get me? I was a valuable employee. They needed me. But not enough to keep me."

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