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Quakes may have rattled Ridgecrest, but its sense of community isn't shaken

Diana Marcum, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

RIDGECREST, Calif. -- Opal Goode turned 112 in June, about a month before the big earthquakes that still have this town rumbling.

The local Bank of America, where she worked for 20 years (more than 50 years ago), threw a party, and everyone was invited. It would have been the event of the summer if it hadn't been upstaged by the 6.4 quake on July 4 and the 7.1 the next day.

Members of the high school band played "Anchors Aweigh" -- the Naval Air Weapons Station in nearby China Lake employs much of the town. Volunteers with Paws to Serve brought the puppies they're raising to be seeing-eye dogs.

And John "Skip" Gorman, a metal artist who shares a "potpourri of thoughts and observations" on his Ridgecrest blog, read a poem about Opal that won him a laugh and a kiss from the guest of honor.

On the couch nearest the table of cupcakes, 9-year-old Loretta Banks sat with her sisters Lucy, 7, and Lavender, 2. Loretta wondered aloud what she would remember when she was an old lady. It would probably be her sisters and desert wildflowers, she said.

That conversation has stuck with her mother, Kaley Banks, who at 35 has lived in Ridgecrest her whole life and wants to see more of the world.

 

Ridgecrest is isolated.

The road east from Bakersfield leads past nearly deserted mining towns and red rock cliffs formed by faults beneath the earth. The city of 29,000 is at least 100 miles in every direction from an urban center or natural body of water.

"I suppose there are more temperate places," 90-year-old Barbara Butler said during the birthday celebration. "But Ridgecrest is such a fun town. We're a long way away from things, so we rely on each other. A group of us ladies have breakfast at Kristy's restaurant every Tuesday."

When the earthquakes hit, that self-reliance was needed.

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