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California

‘Where is she? Where is she?’ Frantic moments at Dollar Tree when earthquake hits

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Broken bottles and other goods in a store in Lake Isabella, Calif., after a magnitude 6.4 quake.
(Rex Emerson)

Barbara Butler, 90, was shopping in the Dollar Tree at China Lake and Ridgecrest boulevards in Ridgecrest when the shaking started.

“There was a shelf with all of the supplies for cleaning, and all of the sudden I felt a big jolt and that was coming down,” she said. “I knew I had to get out of the way.”

Butler, who walks with a cane, said she was able to narrowly maneuver out of the shelf’s path.

“It fell all around me, and liquids went everywhere, and the lights went out,” she said. “I heard people say, ‘Where is she? Where is she?’”

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“I just saw it falling and I knew that I needed to move,” she added. “And then it’s very tall, so when it came down, it was just a smash and everything just broke, it was a mess. Nothing fell on me at all, I am perfectly fine.”

FULL COVERAGE: 6.4 July 4 Southern California earthquake »

She said that some of the other shoppers found her and helped her out of the store, and she got in her car and drove home.

There, she encountered damage.

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“My mother had a collection of glass cups and saucers. I lost all that. And I lost a beautiful antique structure that I housed them in, it’s years and years old. I lost that too. But they’re just things. But the nice thing was, I had three sets of neighbors come in and clean it up for me, leaving their own houses, where they had lost a lot of things, to come over and help me first. So that’s the important part of the whole story, is people helping people and people checking on neighbors and on those that aren’t able to get down and pick up the glass. So that’s what I’m thankful for in all this.”

Strongest earthquake in years rattles Southern California; damage reported »

She said many businesses in the neighborhood were closed but the Starbucks was still open.

“You can imagine the mess in the restaurants. In fact, I had just been to Denny’s. Thank goodness I had just had a good breakfast there,” she said.

She is no strange to seismic activity.

“I remember the six-pointer in Long Beach.… It devastated Long Beach and Compton. I was in the Tehachapi earthquake and I saw the sand moving,” she said. “I’ve been through ’em.”

Why L.A.’s early warning system didn’t send an alert before the magnitude 6.4 quake »

The quake shook loose her water heater, which sprang a leak, Butler said.

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Someone should be out to fix it by Friday, she said.

“That’s stuff, that’s things,” she said. “The important part is the four neighbors that helped come over and clean my house.”


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