After getting out of Dodger town, Los Angeles, we watched from San Diego, as Angelenos lost it – their buildings, minds, even their humanity. We tried to make sense of an irrational situation and learned a few new things that aren’t found in textbooks.
FIRES – Glued to our TVs, we learned to identify new fires (black smoke) from extinguished fires (white smoke). It hurt to see places we frequented go up in flames then burn to the ground. The riots covered over 30 square miles and fire crews couldn’t respond without police escorts.
MARTIAL LAW – In response to people becoming animals and slow response times, victims took laws into their own hands. When I heard “Marshal Law” I thought we’d digressed back to the cowboy gun-slinging days. I think it really meant that when 4,000 National Guardsmen arrived the morning after the riots ignited, they became the authority and local law enforcement answered to them. It was surreal seeing humvee tanks patrolling the neighborhoods enforcing curfew (a parents dream, really). Eventually 10,000 National Guardsmen and almost 4,000 soldiers worked together.
NOT EVEN THE CITY BURNING DOWN CANCELS FINALS – The following Monday, business reopened, classes started again and some, but not all, finals were cancelled. Proudly, the school was completely unscathed! Having the National Guard’s operations at the center of campus helped.
THE SAFEST GRADUATION IN HISTORY – I don’t remember much about graduation day. Supposedly Kirk Douglas received an honorary degree. I remember sitting on the huge lawn in my cap and gown, looking up at the grand library, then farther up at the helicopter with machine guns hanging from both sides, circling overhead. I could not hear a word over the engines.
For a long time I was angry. It made the transition from college to “real-life” a fast one. I didn’t see how people could do this to their homes and other humans. I’d felt they’d set their town back decades because any major business that could help build up the area would never return.
Fortunately, heroes have helped rebuild Los Angeles. I prefer to end this with a story of heroism from the day it started… the man who helped save Reginald Denny’s life.