Column: Mike Davis’ final email to me captured the L.A. ‘sewer explosion’ — and reminded me to write, not mourn the loss of a city.
# Chapter 22
# The _L.A. Times_
September 17, 1971
The subject line of the third letter in the subject line in “Mike Davis’s Letters to the Editor” reads: “California Earthquake, Los Angeles and Beyond” and begins, “Dear Mr. Davis (Mr. Davis: Where are you?).” You’d think that the Los Angeles _Times_ would have a sense of humor when it published something so absurdly ridiculous. I know I would have.
What I was writing about was how the big earthquake on Wednesday night in the Los Angeles valley devastated so much of the city’s infrastructure, leaving more than 70,000 people without power, water, and clean water and many businesses without inventory and employees for days, weeks, months. Then the _New York Times_ led with some of the most absurdly horrible news possible: that Los Angeles was the fourth most dangerous city in the United States (after Washington, DC; Chicago, IL; and New York, NY; and the fifth most dangerous, after Detroit, MI; Cleveland, OH; and Baltimore, MD; and the most dangerous: after New York, NY; and Los Angeles, CA; and the most dangerous city in America: after New York, NY). They could have written a whole chapter on how the earthquake was a national catastrophe, but instead they just said: “L.A. is the nation’s most dangerous city.”
In the same story, the _Times_ also suggested that the earthquake was caused by a “sudden change of underground water table” and concluded by saying that there are no plans to relocate the damaged buildings in the future. The fact is that more than 70,000 people without water, electric power, and clean water is a national disaster, but the fact is that there are no plans to relocate the damaged buildings in the future.
The Los Angeles _Times_ and the _New York Times_ should have been publishing editorials that said we have the world’s worst, third-worst, and fifth-worst cities when it comes to earthquake danger, but the _Times_ was too afraid to do so. Instead, they just printed the word “loser” in the story that had nothing to do with earthquake danger.
Just look at