Jan 10, 2015 4:52 PM

Residents commemorate 10th anniversary of deadly landslide

The Associated Press

LA CONCHITA, Calif. (AP) Ten years later, Diane Hart still has trouble sleeping at night.

The 2005 landside in the seaside Southern California community of La Conchita engulfed homes and left 10 dead. Hart was buried alive in a mount of rock and house debris. She was injured, but she survived.

On Saturday, one decade after the disaster, residents were commemorating those lost and weighing the landslide's long-term effect. Hart has difficulty sleeping for more than four hours. Others trace through their steps on that day and wondered what they might have done differently. Some wonder about the neighbors they never got to meet.

"My whole life," Hart told the Ventura County Star (http://bit.ly/1BN7VDT ), "will be described as before and after, forever and ever."

Hart was going through emails when debris from the landslide struck her house. As mud poured in and the ceiling fell, she dove for a coat closet but was pushed out by the rubble and buried whole.

The rock and dirt stopped at her chest, leaving a 2-foot-square pocket of air.

A former emergency room nurse, Hart knew she had broken ribs and struggled for oxygen. She tried to remain calm, reciting Hail Marys and thinking about an argument she had with her daughter.

Then she heard distant voices. They grew louder after about 90 minutes. After three hours, rescuers pried her body from the wreckage. She suffered fractures to 12 ribs, three vertebrae, two bones in her left forearm and her scapula.

"I said 'Oh my God, I survived.' " she told the newspaper.

Hart said her recovery has been complicated. She gets anxious in chaotic stores and now lives 98 miles away. She can't imagine ever going back to live in La Conchita. But she said she has found peace.

"It took nine years for me to feel I have the sense of a life again, that I felt like me again," she said.

Others were not as fortunate. Michelle Wallet and her three daughters were killed. Her husband, Jimmie Wallet, was at the store and returned to find the friend's home they were staying in buried in rubble. He dug through the debris in search of his wife and children until police forced him out.

Karen Townsend, Wallet's mother, said she goes to a bench bearing her daughter and granddaughters' names on the anniversary of the slide each year and cries. Jimmie Wallet and other relatives go to the bench some years, too.

They bring flowers and search the ocean for dolphins, Townsend said.


Information from: Ventura County Star, http://venturacountystar.com


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