By John Bennett
RIDGECREST – “You’re gonna rebuild - I don’t think that, I know that,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom in Ridgecrest during a press conference at City Hall late on Saturday afternoon.
After touring some damaged areas in Ridgecrest, Newsom said he was very certain the rebuilding would make Ridgecrest and surrounding areas even stronger.
We will rise again
“The last 48 hours have been extraordinary, not only for all of us here in California, but I imagine for people around the world wondering what’s happening in our state,” he said.
“It’s been a remarkable many months in California. I just got off the phone five minutes ago, quite literally five minutes ago with the President. We were just reflecting on the fact that six months ago, we were battling a fire in Northern California, the Camp fire in Butte County battling fires at the same time, concurrently, down in Southern California, the Woolsey fire. Now, earthquakes.
Newsom recounted a couple of his experiences with earthquakes, having had similar experiences in San Fransisco.
“As a former mayor of San Francisco, fourth generation California and San Francisco, earthquakes are familiar to me as they are to everybody down here.
“The flag of San Francisco is a phoenix rising, came out of the ashes in the 1906 earthquake. And the phoenix rising is symbolic because San Francisco rose from those ashes and became stronger, more resilient city as a consequence of people committing to each other committing to a sense of community, committing to their city, the state in this nation, collectively, who we are as a people.
“And I think that resiliency that same level of commitment is demonstrable. When you walk around this community, I’ve had the privilege of spending time the mayor, with your district attorney, the police chief, many other leaders, city administrators, city council members, members, the Board of Supervisors, I had a chance to talk with people more resolved than ever, to rebuild. Rebuild with an enlightening sense of what this community can be moving forward.
“And I think some of the most interesting conversations we had, we’re in that spirit of ‘how can we be stronger? How can we be better, how can be more self-reliant, not just more resilient as a community and our expression was one of commitment.’
“As the director said, we’re now moving in the new phase. But for me, the space extends beyond just the immediate term the next few days, next few weeks.”
Phone call with Trump
Newsom said he had no doubt that President Donald Trump would support the rebuilding efforts.
“We are, as a state are as well,” he said. “And so I’m here in that spirit. Spirit of gratitude, spirit of respect for the leadership behind me, to the first responders, many of them that are getting their first meal in a long time.
“Many of them haven’t seen their kids, many of their kids who haven’t seen their parents that are in shock, quite literally in shock, because they’re scared to death to go back home and tell mom or dad, get back home and make them feel safe to all of those folks here, across not only this city, in this remarkable naval base.
“You want to talk about patriotic community, you want to talk about a community completely tied to the Fourth of July, to the values and principles and patriotism and love of the flag, come here on 9/11. When they do the memorial, remember it’s thousands of different flags all lined up here.”
When asked for details on his conversation with President Trump, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he was told the federal government would provide whatever was needed to help rebuild.
“Those are words I’m familiar with hearing the President make,” said Newsom. “He made those commitments for folks in Butte County, he made those commitments to folks down in Woolsey and he’s fulfilled that commitment.
“One area where there’s no politics, where we’ve worked extraordinarily well together is in emergency response recovery, and increasing that emergency preparedness. And this is consistent with that relationship.
“And I want to thank the President for his outreach, but more importantly, for FEMA. FEMA has just been extraordinary.”
In response to a question about what he saw while touring the damaged areas, Newsom talked about the hidden damage.
“What we saw in the tour is exactly what the police chief said. We saw what many people don’t see. And that’s what resides inside. The chief has made this point to you over the course the last few days.
“I’ve watched it, I’ve heard it, it’s made it privately in the cars we were tweeting around, you don’t notice the damage. Till you open that door. We were forgiving. You know, you walk into that Sears and with the gentleman that runs and he says, this was the damage on Thursday. This is the damage on Friday. And you walk into Sears you wonder if there’s any damage at all right?
“When you open the doors, you see something very different, go to mobile home park, the same thing, red tags are there for a reason. You see a few bricks down, let’s see what’s behind those doorways.
“So folks, we’re making that point, not only first responders and your leaders here, but also the community leaders was interesting just at the mobile home park, and we’re very pleased the water was a back on.
“They said slow down on getting gas back on just because, you know, this is a challenging time for us. And we’re a little nervous about what’s going on. But just that’s the ebb and flow of this month.”
He also praised Caltrans for getting roads repaired and opened quickly and utility companies for their hard work.
“Most of the roads, Caltrans or state transportation folks got those roads, back up,” said Newsom. obviously our two best-known utilities Edison and PG&E, I think they’ve done an admirable job over the course, last 48 hours, and they have a little bit more work to do.”
A reporter said he had spoken to a homeowner who’s mobile home was knocked off its foundation and the estimate to repair it was more than $10,000. He asked what resources might be available for that situation.
“This is the interesting differentiation between these earthquakes and wildfires. And what has occurred here is most folks, let’s be candid, don’t have earthquake insurance, because they can’t afford it. Or they just are unwilling to spend the money because the deductibles are so high. And so in many of these cases, that is a huge out of pocket expense.
“So multiple things are happening. And they’re happening as they should, in a deliberative manner. You start with local and county declarations of emergency, the state provides that overlay to the President just talked about the federal declaration of emergency and then you move to the next phase of that declaration, then that allows individuals to get benefits.
“I have all the confidence in the world that the President will be forthcoming in immediate terms with the federal declaration, and then we will move on to the subsequent debt declaration, which will be done after a very detailed inventory of all the damage.”
Newsom said it was also important to remember that the disaster affected other areas.
“There’s two counties and not just the city, we have not forgotten the smaller communities that reside in and around where we stand,” he said. “And that’s critical as well, that we not forget those unincorporated parts.”
Newsom was then asked what he would say to Californian’s about the danger of complacency.
“Well, I mean, you got to be prepared,” he said. One of his first actions as governor was saying the state needed to be prepared for earthquakes.
“And this is not being prescient, this is just being historic,” he said. “The greatest predictor of the future is the past. That’s California.”
Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake Commanding Officer Paul Dale spoke about damage to the base.
“We had moved into the recovery and cleanup phase after the 6.4,” said Dale. “Now after 7.1 last night, we pretty much started over again. I don’t have any specifics for you, because we continue to go through the damage, initial damage assessments.
“And we have a large number of structural engineers that are on the installation right now, making assessments find that information at the higher headquarters for further decisions and further assessment.”
A reporter also asked if there were any explosives on the base and if they were secure.
“We do have weapons magazines on the installation because we are a Naval Air Weapons Station, so we have that weapons aspect our mission,” he said. “And yes, the weapons are secure.”
Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin was asked if he could speak about the mental wear and tear of the earthquakes.
“If I had to put it into words, I don’t know what words I could use for that right now,” he said.
“I can give you a bunch of words of what we’ve all gone through: horror, grief, shock. And, for me, pride in what I’ve seen from my people. It’s been a vast range of emotions and I think the whole community is going through that.”
Another reporter asked for some philosophical words of comfort for the community Newsom spoke decisively.
“You’re gonna rebuild, you’re going to be a stronger and better community,” he said. “I don’t think that, I know that. That’s in evidence everywhere you go. That spirit is alive here.
“This is a special place, so I have no trepidation about this community building stronger.”
He said he also expected the rebuild to happen much more quickly than most people would expect.
In response to questions about concerns from immigrant or noncitizen communities, Newsom sought to be reassuring.
“No one in our diverse communities should be concerned about information being used against them,” he said. “In no way, shape or form should people fear being part of a larger community, regardless of their status when it comes to emergency response.”
Regarding disaster preparedness, Newsom said people should plan for the worst.
“Worst case scenario, you are on your own for 72 hours,” he said. “Because in the most dire circumstance, when you get, you know, close to that 1906 level earthquake, it’s more likely that first responders are not going to be there in those first few hours.
“They will be doing everything they can do, but the magnitude of those quakes are such that you need to prepare. So it’s more than just water, food with your family, yourself taking care of your pets. Thinking about if the communication system goes down - and it didn’t go down here - but if it does go down, and your daughter’s at school and your son’s at camp and you had some consideration that you can’t just pick up your phone and all reconvene.”