On January 17, 1994, at 4:31 a.m., Southern California experienced one of the largest earthquakes ever felt in the region – the Northridge Earthquake.
I lived in Southern California at the time and I experienced this earthquake firsthand. It startled me from my sleep like it did millions of others throughout the state. It lasted almost 20 seconds and produced a ground acceleration that was the highest ever recorded in an urban area in North America at that time.
What followed after the primary quake were two huge aftershocks measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale. This was the first earthquake to strike directly under an urban area of the United States since the 1933 Long Beach Earthquake. Damage was wide-spread: sections of major freeways collapsed, parking structures and office buildings collapsed, and numerous apartment buildings suffered irreparable damage.
One day later, on January 18, I showed up for a BNI meeting very near Northridge, only to discover that the restaurant the chapter was meeting at had been condemned the night before because of severe earthquake damage.
I got there early. The president was there. We assumed that very few other people would show up; however, one by one – every single one of the 30 BNI members drove into the lot. Since they couldn’t meet inside, they all stood in a big circle in the parking lot and held their meeting. Except, this meeting was different. The President went around the ad-hoc circle and asked everyone to share how they were doing and what they were grateful for after the big quake.
It was an incredible experience to watch so many people support each other in a way that had nothing to do with business but everything to do with our core values in BNI.
They wrapped up the meeting by sharing their referrals and requests for assistance after the quake. Those more fortunate willingly volunteered to help those who were more greatly affected by the earthquake.
But the most touching part of the meeting was when everyone met in the center of that circle to comfort each other and give each other hugs in the parking lot of that small, condemned coffee shop.
The outpouring of support and love was incredible. I could only watch in awe as I witnessed the true power of the relationships created in BNI. It was Givers Gain in action.
My experience that morning is indelibly etched into my memory, and it will be for the rest of my life. BNI is so much more than referrals, and if I ever doubted this before that day, I have never doubted it since. BNI is about relationships. It’s about being there for one another. It’s about the things that happen when people truly get to know each other and trust each other.
I feel honored to be a part of this organization. Because I believe that BNI is more than a meeting – it’s a way of life.