Iva Erwin spent her 80th birthday sitting on a curb without her medicine, her shoes or a roof over her head. On Tuesday, she was tired, confused - and scared to go home.
A few feet away, Jacqueline Jacquez, age 6, was clutching her father, her head burrowed in his shirt, still shaking from the predawn jolt that tore her from the warmth of her bed a day before.For the young and old, the initial terror of Monday's earthquake is over, but the aftershocks and the fear that next time it could be the Big One have left them stunned, shaken and sleepless.
"I won't go back. No-ooo," said Erwin, who moved to a Red Cross shelter after her apartment building was heavily damaged in the quake, which struck on her 80th birthday. "It just isn't safe."
"Scared is not the word," said Marion Sweet, a 44-year secretary staying in the shelter with her two teenage sons. "I thought I woke up in hell. You don't want to go to sleep. You're afraid if you do, you'll go through the same nightmare."
Sweet and nearly 400 others spent Monday night on cots or in the parking lot of the Granada Hills High School, about five miles from the quake's epicenter.
Many, including Sweet, didn't lose their homes but were afraid to return immediately because windows were blown out, furniture was overturned and walls were cracked.
On Tuesday, the victims clustered in the dank gym or in breakfast lines outside. They were anxious, sad and worried about the future - feelings psychologists say are common and unlikely to fade quickly.
"The next few weeks are the hardest," said Chaytor Mason, associate professor of human factors-psychology at the University of Southern California. "If people hear a door slam, they jump up expecting an earthquake. They're feeling aftershocks when they don't occur. They're sleeping out in their cars. . . . Even shouting might be interpreted as a warning."
"They remain eternally antsy," Mason said. "They remain eternally on guard. Just like the military man fearing grenades, it will go on for years."
As they did after wildfires ravaged Southern California less than three months ago, local agencies have crisis counseling and emergency teams to help the earthquake victims.
But some, such as Erwin, have practical worries. She needs her blood pressure medication and has little but the clothes on her back - including a sweater and oversized shoes borrowed from a male neighbor.
Manuel Jacquez, a city worker who slept with his family in a car Monday night, is trying to cope, too.
He said he helped firefighters working on gas mains Monday because he wouldn't panic if he kept busy. But he couldn't escape the look of terror on his daughter's face.
"She was crying. . . . She kept saying, `Don't let me go,' " he said, holding Jacqueline in his lap as they waited for water outside the shelter.
Children are particularly traumatized by these kinds of disasters, said Genevieve Terrill, a psychologist at the Los Angeles Unified School District.
"They're going to feel insecure," she said. "They're going to feel out of control. You have to give them the chance to talk and talk and talk. . . . You want to give them the feeling . . . we're prepared."
John Freedy, an assistant professor of clinical psychology at the Medical University of South Carolina, said it's best to have the children involved in the cleanup.
Freedy and his colleagues have studied the psychological aftermath of five recent catastrophes - including two hurricanes and the 1991 Oakland Hills fire - and found most victims establish a sense of normalcy within six months.
"Human beings are remarkably resilient," he said. "The silver lining is that given the passage of time . . . two years from now, 95 percent of the people are going to be perfectly fine. The footnote to that is if 3 to 4 percent have major problems, that still equates to thousands of people. And that's an important group to pay attention to."
Shirley Williams, the 28-year-old mother of two, is hoping her family will bounce back soon.
But she knows she's going to have to do some convincing to calm her 13-year-old daughter, Kahlela.
"My daughter said, `I don't want to live here anymore.' But I told her it doesn't matter, it could be a tornado, an earthquake or something else," Williams said. "If God is really ready for us to go, we'll go."
See microfilm for chart on L.A. quake scene .