Letter Re: My Experience With Social Collapse

People often discuss what would happen in a societal collapse and I wonder how many people have actually experienced one.  My experiences came from living in a foreign country…California.  19 years ago this month, I was living in Long Beach, California after my separation from the US Navy.  I was working in the medical field and came home one Wednesday around noon as usual for my early work hours.  The day was pretty uneventful with the exception of one little item.  The great state of California in all of its infinite wisdom had handed down a verdict of “Not Guilty” on a case regarding four police officers who had been caught on video tape beating a man 13 months before.  This ‘little incident’ would capture the attention of the nation and impact my life for the next six days.

That night I sat down to dinner and to catch up on the news.  I was up until almost 0100 hrs that night even though I had to be at work at 0400.  Like many Americans I sat glued to the news, watching as residents of Los Angeles County initiated what is now referred to as “The 1992 Los Angeles Riots”.  I would like to point out that there was no Economic Collapse, no Natural Disaster, no Terrorist Attack, only the rendering of a verdict in a trial.  12 citizens handed down a verdict on a case after reviewing the evidence presented, and whether it was the “RIGHT” verdict or not, this was the catalyst for the events which allowed the “wolves” to wreak havoc.  I watched from a news helicopter’s camera as “The L.A. Four” pulled Reginald Denny from his 18-wheeler loaded with sand and beat him unconscious with the final blow of a concrete slab thrown at his head.  Next up on the news was the beating of another man named Fidel Lopez where they robbed him, beat him, and tried to surgically remove his ear in very unsanitary conditions. I watched as the news covered the burning of cars, and stores began.  Every channel covered people being pulled from their cars to be beaten, raped, or killed.  The entire time this was occurring law enforcement, paramedics, and fire departments held their positions just outside of the ‘hot’ areas for their own safety and to refrain from inflaming the situation any further.  (“When seconds count, the police are only minutes away”)

Thursday morning I woke up to the smell of smoke from the fires.  I got up and went to work, where we were very busy because some people called in “Sick”.   The mayor at the time in L.A. had imposed a curfew, and there was a call up of the California National Guard, but that took almost a full day to get them in place.  I had worked through my lunch break and was therefore unaware of events that had started to unfold in Long Beach where I lived and worked.  When I left work that day, there were plumes of smoke rising from different places around the city.  I went directly home and took inventory of what I had.  I found I was grossly unprepared.  I was a ‘sheeple’ and I still didn’t know it.  I stayed home that night, watched some of the news and then caught up on my sleep.  I remember watching the local Price Club (this was before it merged with Costco) in Signal Hill being looted of televisions and such.  That is until a couple of Signal Hill Police cars pulled up.  They had a reputation of being heavy handed and were known to carry a semi-auto rifle as well as shotguns in their cars.  Even people who had purchased items stopped and set down their stuff until they were released by the police.  The looters just dropped their ill-gotten booty and ran.

Friday morning I awoke to the same smoke smells and got up and left for work.   This time I didn’t quite get there.  I was stopped on the first major intersection by the National Guard.  They were armed with M16 rifles, and in full combat gear.  They had a Humvee and the road was blocked by K-rails (those concrete things separating most metropolitan freeway lanes).  I was on a motorcycle and had to pull over, remove my Helmet, and show both my Drivers License and work ID.  I was told to be sure to carry these “until the crisis is over”.  They did not detain me long, but I had to go through 2 more of these on my way to work.  Again people were “out sick” so work was again busy, but I took a short break mid morning to go up to the helicopter pad and see the city.  There were about 15 people up there looking at the fires burning across the city.  We casually tried to figure out what it was that was burning, and it seemed for the most part to be stores.  Now remember I lived in the neighboring city of Long Beach, not L.A. and this was still happening. 

I ended my shift and headed home after stopping in the bank located in the basement of the hospital to cash my check just in case.  I was very preoccupied with what I had seen from the helicopter pad on my way home and was thinking about the fires while stopped at a light.  It was at that time that my first wakeup call was delivered.  I felt something hit me in the back of my head, and then got a hard yank on my waist.  Though dazed, I was able to maintain my balance, the brake, and clutch on my bike. Heard a noise to my right and looked over my shoulder to see a 2×4 finish bouncing on the ground and then see a young man running into an apartment complex.  In his left hand was my fanny pack, with the cash from my cashed paycheck.  I was not about to follow him into that complex and felt lucky that I was wearing a helmet or I would have been on the ground.  I ran the red light and headed home.  Having gotten home, I went into the house, locked the doors, and started planning the next two weeks until payday came again.  I figured I had enough food, and had filled up my car and bike so was not worried about gas, but decided I better get my laundry done with the change I had on hand.

I gathered up my laundry and headed to the back of the apartments where I lived with my handful of quarters, when my second wakeup call was issued.  As I rounded the back corner of the apartments I came face to face with three upstanding representatives of society at the time.  One of them greeted me with the usual head nod and “What’s Up?”, while the other two representatives were nice enough to give me a preview of their fine cutlery products.  They asked for my money.  When I told them I had just been robbed and didn’t have any, they didn’t believe me.  It really should not have been that much of a stretch to believe considering what was happening, but giving them the benefit of the doubt (maybe they hadn’t stolen a television yet to watch what was unfolding) I showed them my quarters and told them that was all that I had left, and they were welcome to it.  They started to approach mentioning the possibility that maybe I had something inside my place they would like better.  That was when a neighbor I did not know, stepped out into this alley holding a very large hand cannon and invited the young men to leave.  His name was Ricardo and I will forever be in his debt.

I decided to forget my laundry and instead to go to a friend’s house since the news was reporting that gangs from the Oakland California area (a six+ hour drive away) were coming to Long Beach to join in on the festivities.  I decide that it was time to Get out of Dodge.  I left on Friday and did not come back until late Sunday night.  Luckily things had died down a bit, even though the California National Guard had shot and killed a person they said tried to run them down.  The curfew was lifted in L.A. the next day and things got back to some semblance of normalcy (as normal as Southern California can be I guess), and I decided it was time to move.

I went on very blindly and still held a sheeple-like “things will work themselves out” attitude and a “People tend to over react” attitude until about a year ago.  I read the novel “Patriots”, and while reading thought: “Wow, that sounds similiar to what I went through.”  My eyes are fully open now, and I have learned a lot.  This was a collapse of society that I experienced, and even when I was right in the middle of it, I didn’t see the danger for what it truly was.  Again, no war, no economic collapse, or no natural disaster occurred.  The police didn’t help, and as a matter of fact a few others were fired because while this was happening they decided to go into a city park and shoot their guns. 

The paramedics didn’t come to the rescue, because it was unsafe.  I was a Corpsman in the Navy (8404) and I had to go into fire to rescue men, they did not.  The fire department didn’t even come in to put out fires, if there was still civil unrest happening.  And it wasn’t even their choice, as they were ordered to stay out.  We had the military on our streets to maintain order (not peace). Some 53 people died during six days of widespread looting, assault, arson and murder. Therer was more than one billion dollars in damage and thousands of people were injured.  Neighbors assaulted neighbors, people burned the very stores they shopped in, and looters were everywhere. 

The next time that someone tells you that you are crazy, or fringe, or an alarmist, remember I was none of these…I was lucky.  What have I learned?  It is better to be prepared than be lucky.  It is funny what it takes to have your eyes opened.  For me, as a novel written originally in 1991 by a forward-thinking man, about a fictional circumstance brought about by exactly what is happening now… I hope this makes some people say “Hmmm”.  Capt. Rawles, thank you.  To my fellow preppers, fight the good fight, and God bless. – Brad M.