Mama Kat’s last writing prompt stood out to me this week:
Earthquake! Where were you when it happened?
…probably because last Friday we had an earthquake in suburban Maryland – a pretty rare event. While some people were quite shaken by the earthquake (pun intended) my kids were thrilled to have felt their first earthquake. Considering that I grew up in the California Bay Area, earthquakes are old news. No big deal. Even a little fun, if I can admit that.
Earthquake drills at school were as common as fire drills when I was a kid. The alarm would go off, and all students were expected to duck and cover. We dropped to the floor, crouched in the fetal position under our desks with our hands locked behind our necks, and waited until we got the word that it was safe to come out.
When real earthquakes happened, we were ready. We ducked and covered, and oohed and ahhed all the way through several earthquakes a year.
There are two earthquakes that particularly stand out in my mind. The first was the 1983 Coalinga earthquake, a 6.4 on the richter scale, which occurred on May 2, 1983. I was in the 4th grade at the time, in Mrs. Bowden’s class. I was cleaning off the chalkboard and thought that the students in the classroom opposite ours were banging on the other side of the wall. A loud, rumbling sound always precedes the shaking. I looked around for my teacher, and noticed the other kids in my class with odd, confused looks on their faces. Mrs. Bowden shouted, “Duck and cover!” and we all hid under our desks for what seemed like an eternity. 30 seconds lasts forever when the earth is shaking and the ground is groaning. I admit that I was slightly scared that time.
The next earthquake that made a huge impression on me was the World Series (Loma Prieta) earthquake on October 17, 1989. Measuring 7.1 on the richter scale, the earthquake of ’89 was the biggest since the earthquake of 1906, one of the worst natural disasters recorded in US history. I was at home watching TV in the family room when the earthquake hit, and the first thing that struck my senses was that Mom was making a LOT of noise running down the stairs. Mom sensed the earthquake earlier than I did, and ran downstairs as quickly as possible to get all of the kids together under a door frame. We stood there, in complete shock, as our marble floor turned into jello and waves literally rolled through our house. I couldn’t believe that something so hard could bend so easily and not break into pieces. Nic nacs and books fell of shelves, but we were fine.
As soon as the shaking stopped (another eternity) we immediately picked up the phone to call dad, who was working in Berkeley that day. We also turned the TV back on to see what they were saying. Amazingly, we were still able to get through on the phones during those first seconds after the earthquake. For the rest of the evening, I wanted to stay as close to my mom as possible. There was lots of celebrating when my dad finally made it home.
Last week’s Maryland earthquake was nowhere near as intense. In fact, I slept right through the 3.6-er when it rumbled straight through our town. When I woke up that morning, Necco asked me if I had been awake at 5:00. I looked at her strangely and said, “No, I was asleep.” She proceeded to tell me about how she had woken up and thought she felt the house move. I wanted to say “Yeah, right! That doesn’t happen here!” but I just listened to her description. A few minutes later, Candyman checked his Blackberry and found an earthquake alert. We did, indeed, have an earthquake. I’m glad he got that email, because otherwise I would have been really confused when KitKat came downstairs and immediately asked me if I had been awake at 5:00. Apparently, I am now a heavier sleeper than my two oldest girls.
The rest of the family was bummed that they hadn’t been awake to experience their first earthquake.
What about you? Have you experienced an earthquake? If not, do they scare you as much as they scare my husband (who was afraid he’d be in a big one the first time he came to visit me in California, before we got engaged)?
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