3D Myrna Velazquez Northridge Quake & Lessons of Familia - michaelm© 94
A graphite & charcoal, on ((1) 30" x 40" on cold pressed acid free illustration boards, & digital photography
I first met Myrna at my brother Larrys hair salon, My Haircut Place. She began her salon experience at the age of 14 years by keeping the floor free of fallen hair and she received large tips from the staff because of her diligence. An attribute she consciously applied to her high school diploma. It was soon clear she had the talent to become a hairstylist because she was asking the right questions. The knowledge and experience the shop had to offer would also help her to not only learn how to be a hairdresser, but also how to run a salon of her own. The female staff grew to love and protect her like sisters. Mynas experience with family members had prepared her for the perils of social gatherings and the diplomacy required to turn chaos into order within the setting of a shop.
She quickly went from the floor to receptionist, where she cared for and entertained children of parents abandoned to the staff. And did so like a sister. She handled the phones, appointments and bore the responsibility of the cash drawer and most importantly the distribution of Staff tips. She was born and raised in North Hollywood attending North Hollywood High, a Latina hommie. The customers who frequented the shop were people she not only knew, but actually grew up with. Myrna was the community.
Within a year I saw her transform Larrys business into the communities salon. She turned the shop into a family with Larry in the big brother role. The staff became brother and sister with Myrna as the little sister. She had the ability to make everyone feel equal, yet special, young or old.
My Haircut Place enjoyed the status of a community center. A cool, comfortable, clean, multi racial, safe, family environment where everyone, including local law enforcement and North Hollywood city employees were welcomed equally. Open 7 days a week, Larry responded by declaring every weekend a family party, with balloons, glitter, free gifts and prizes for children and adults. He would set up appointments with fruit bar vendors "ice box on wheels". They made arrangements on when to show up to offer all children present in the lobby a free choice of any fruit bar they wanted (with the parents approval of course).
Then one day a nice young man, Roberto, unexpectedly entered her life. Over the coarse of six months the couple wove a friendship into a relationship that would stand the test of time. The girls were more than instrumental in preparing her for the dynamics of a budding relationship.
In two years we watched them grow closer. Roberto found and held a good job and in time proved he was true. They both recognized diplomas would offer a better foundation for their relationship and both excelled in their studies. The families noted the relationship was good and agreed to their union. They started with the celebration of Myrnas eighteenth birthday.
The families formally agreed to pay for the wedding and unofficially accepted the idea that the young couple could "quietly" move in together on the condition they received their diplomas and exchange their wedding vows in june of 1994. Five months hence. Myrna and Roberto were both leaving their family homes for the first time. They found an affordable Northridge street level apartment and they took possession of the keys in mid January. Water and power on, they moved their new furniture in over the weekend which ended Sunday with an unofficial, boisterous apartment warming party. A few family members started Sunday morning working their way thourgh the day and into the night.
The young couple were good hosts, making everyone comfortable. They instinctively knew how to manage the party. Watching it progress to its ultimate climax in song and familiar laughter. As the party wound down, the children, who were once jumping on and breaking in the new couches and queen size bed, were now collapsed and comfortably fast asleep on them. Roberto diligently shuttled family members home safely, well into the early now Monday morning. While Myrna and the ladies attended to the after party clean up.
Myrnas exhaustion caught up with her after the last of her girl friends left. She climbed in between the soft sheets, under the comforter of her brand new but slightly broken in bed. Promising to await the return of her lifes partner. But she soon succumb to sleeps embrace. Roberto quietly returned to find Myrna on their bed. He gently caressed her hair with his hands and kissed her softly. He went back for a drink of orange juice and sat down to drink it. But was soon asleep on the same couch, following the trend set by the ninos of late evening last.
Suddenly at 4:31 Roberto awoke to Myrnas screams to a magnitude 6.7 jolt that pushed the Northridge Hills 23 or so inches up into the sky and settle back down to a height 18 inches higher than a few seconds before. At that very moment, in the Northridge Hills, Larry had closed his eyes on a Cal Worthington car commercial. "One moment I was laying on my couch and the next I found myself standing up in my front room".
Roberto experienced the same effect but was thrown forward, onto his stomach and into the doorway where it had popped off the hinges a split second before. On the upsurge, the weight of the top floors of the building collapsed onto the first floor. Then collaped even more as the earth settled back down. He found his hands on the hallway floor. The bedroom ceiling collapsed and pinned Myrna onto the bed. She called and he responded as best he could. They were both in pain but thankfully alive. Roberto had managed to pull himself into the hallway when the first aftershock, a magnitude 5.9, hit a minute later. Forcing further settling the building. Myrnas calls were suddenly silenced in mid call. Roberto called out for her until he was rescued five hours later. The only car parked in front of the Northridge Meadows Apartments was hers.
January 17, 2012 - I give praises and thanks for the love she shared. I observe her passing at eighteen years of age, on the eighteenth year of her passing. A very special loss for families and community. Myrna is my submission of a Patron Saint to the Familia and Community.