I’m lucky to have escaped Los Angeles, friends and relatives tell me. From the safety of my Seattle apartment overlooking Puget Sound, I listen to their harrowing personal accounts of the earthquake, delivered in high-pitched voices over the phone. My mother, whose home sits precisely on the epicenter, tells excitedly of three-inch-wide cracks, a living room full of bricks, contaminated water, and a din worthy of the Second Coming. “A war zone,” she calls the house I lived in for more than twenty years. She would know. After all, her hometown in Austria was bombed by the Russians in 1944.