DAVIS, Calif. — Thirteen-year-old Nicholas Dillon’s screams could be heard throughout his pitch black house when the earth shook and the falling bricks hit him. His mother, who later called it the worst night of her life, couldn’t get to him.
“I should be dead,” said Nicholas, whose pelvis was broken in several places when part of a chimney collapsed on him in the magnitude-6.0 earthquake that struck California wine country. He spoke Tuesday to the San Francisco Chronicle from his hospital bed.
“I thought I was paralyzed,” he said. “I couldn’t feel my legs. I couldn’t feel my back.
Nicholas was having a sleepover with a friend, who wasn’t hurt, and had pulled a mattress into the living room to sleep. At 3:20 a.m. Sunday, the shaking started.
“I felt the first jolt of the earthquake and I spun around and yelled my friend’s name four times,” Nicholas said. “The chimney collapsed on my back and I stumped a little forward on the floor. I was lying there. I was screaming my mom’s name and she fell twice trying to get to me.”
His mother, Catalina Dillon, said she was petrified.
“It was the worst night of my life,” she said. “When I heard him screaming and yelling and I couldn’t reach him and couldn’t see where he was,” she told the Chronicle. “I was so scared.”
Nicholas said he thinks he escaped greater injury or death because he tried scooting toward the door when the shaking started.
“If I hadn’t moved, I’m telling you, I shouldn’t be here right now,” he said. “I didn’t black out. I remember the whole thing.”
With phones out, his grandfather ran to a fire station and paramedics eventually came to take him to a local hospital before he was flown to University of California, Davis Children’s Hospital, where he underwent nearly 10 hours of surgery.
He’s now listed in fair condition, and doctors say it will be five to six months before he can put weight on his legs, though his goal is to walk in four.
His mother said the family lost its home during the recent recession and was worried about how they would pay his medical bills.
But Nicholas said he’ll try to stay optimistic.
“I’m still a little scared,” he said. “I really don’t know what to expect. Either way I will stay on top of things. I’m not going to worry about it because it’s not going to help me out if I start being negative and start worrying about it. … I’m not going to let it get to me. I’m just not.”