Ben Forer was breaking curfew.
A student at the Melrose District Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon, the 16-year-old had sneaked into the yeshiva’s library with some friends at 1 a.m. on Jan. 17.
Unlike most high-schoolers, Forer and his friends had left their dorms not on a prank, but to get a jump-start on a major homework assignment.
Forer remembered how after working for three hours, just a few minutes before 4:30 a.m., he left the library to walk down the wide, top-floor hallway to the men’s room. And then, something started happening.
“As I’m walking down the hall, there are all these lockers alongside the walls,” Forer said. “All of a sudden, they start rattling.”
Thinking his friends in the library were causing the noise, he turned back to tell them to quiet down, worried they would wake someone up.
But the noise didn’t stop. And as the lights began to flicker, Forer found himself tossed around the hallway.
“I pretty much realized right away that it was an earthquake,” he said.
He ran back to the library to check on his classmates and found that the bookshelves had come crashing down, throwing their contents across the room. One of Forer’s friends, he said, dove under the library’s heavy oak table. Where he had been sitting only moments before lay a fallen bookshelf.
Now a district attorney for Los Angeles County, Forer said he used a pay phone to call his father in Toronto to reassure him that he was fine.
“My dad has no idea what I’m saying. He’s not paying attention,” Forer recalled, saying his father just started asking about his grades and classes.
Later, after his father saw the news and digested what had happened, he called his son, “freaking out,” Forer said.
“Benny, are you OK? I heard about this earthquake in L.A. …”