Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Shock Brings Mix of Bedlam, Civility `This Time We're Unified,' a Shopper Says

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Shock Brings Mix of Bedlam, Civility `This Time We're Unified,' a Shopper Says

Article excerpt

Ventura Boulevard, the main thoroughfare through the quake-devastated San Fernando Valley, was a ghostly place Monday morning, its shops a shambles, its sidewalks littered with broken glass, its traffic signals out and its automatic teller machines useless.

But the stillness of the street was misleading.

Behind a shuttered Thrifty drugstore in Studio City, where the aisles were clogged with fallen ceiling tiles, a tangle of toys and broken cosmetic bottles, employees peddled batteries and flashlights to a stunned throng of people still shaking from the jolt of a lifetime, which occurred before dawn.

"I need a good flashlight! And eight D batteries! And a couple of Triple A's! And one of those heavy-duty things!" sputtered one man in line, as harried clerks dispensed these limited goods from a shopping cart and apologized that nothing else was for sale because the store was knee-deep in ruined merchandise.

Similar bedlam reigned at the Hughes Market, the only open grocery for miles around, where 10 people at a time were permitted inside to fill their baskets with bottled water, ice cubes, cigarettes and food that required no cooking, because gas and electrical service was unlikely to be restored soon.

The huge plate-glass windows of the market were shattered. The place reeked of spilled vinegar and wine. And the floor was a soggy mess of ketchup, plaster shards and who knows what else, but shoppers had grateful words for the managers for opening. And they made favorable comparison between the frenzied shopping Monday and the last round of panic buying in Los Angeles, in the aftermath of the 1992 riots.

"The lines are long, things are crazy and people are petrified," said Tobi Oringer, a shopper from nearby Sherman Oaks, where two people were killed Monday when a hillside home collapsed. "But it's better than the last time. This time we're unified, as opposed to separated. It's not a fear-based thing we're doing to each other."

In fact, the mood of the day was civility throughout a region that has experienced more troubles than Job in recent years. Shoppers with no cash because the teller machines were inoperative asked politely whether merchants would take checks, and mostly they did. …

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