We had just gotten home from a wonderful weekend in Mendocino. I decided to turn in early, crawling in bed to read, the dog curled up at the foot of the bed. What a heavenly way to bring the weekend to a close.
Bang! HOLLY SHIT, the house is moving! I feel dizzy, as everything sways back and forth. I’m hearing noise everywhere, and the dog takes off down the hall barking; he’s sure there is an intruder. The bird, completely freaked out, falls off his perch and flaps his wings wildly from the bottom of the cage! Five seconds later, everything is STILL moving! I’m standing in the doorway, yelling at the dog, who’s still barking at the invisible intruder, his fur now standing straight up on his back. I yell downstairs to my husband, "We're OK." But then, I hear a "thud" that has me worried; a 100+ pound mirror is hanging in the next room. “What a God awful mess it will be if that thing comes down,” I am thinking. Damn, why isn’t the dog listening to me, and coming when I call him? I have visions of something falling on top of the dog while he tries, nevertheless, to be a hero (a puny one at that)! I thought back to the mirror and the instructions I made the guy swear to before I'd let him hang it on the wall: Do you promise, on your first born child, that this thing will still be hanging on the wall AFTER an earhquake?" He promised.
Being a native Californian, earthquakes have been a way of life. Luckily, my family has never had major loss, nor injury due to a quake. Would my luck hold out?.
As soon as the shaking stopped, I ran through the house, assessing any damages. There weren’t any. Pictures, that once hung straight, were now crooked. No big deal. Downstairs in the entryway, I have 3 vases that were meticulously lined up in symmetrical fashion. The red vase in the center had moved, but again, nothing broken, so no big deal.
I began calling friends, some of whom were closer to the epicenter than was I. It took over an hour to reach some of them as the phone lines were down, including cell phone coverage. Understandably, they were shaken, some more than others. The epicenter was about 45 miles from where I live. Feeling the jolt as we did, I could only imagine how those living closer were holding up.
The thing about earthquakes that are so terrifying (OK, ONE of the things that make them terrifying) is that you have no advanced notice. One minute you’re in bed, sleeping, the next minute, you’re jumping up, groping for the nearest doorway. There is no forewarning, no heavy rain, or radio contact to tell you to pack yourself up and GET THE HELL OUT! And even when you do get out, where the hell, exactly, do you go? The park? The market? Where? Quakes hit, rain or shine; they are an equal opportunity disaster. In spite of growing up hearing the term, “It feels like earthquake weather,” there really is no weather pattern to predict earthquakes. All the fables I heard growing up are just that, fables.
Last night’s jolt measured 5.6, and while the newspaper reports state, “just after 8:00 p.m.,” I can tell you that it was at precisely 8:04 p.m.! As earthquakes go, I have to admit that this was nothing compared to the big quake we had back in 1989 (gosh, I feel as if I should be sitting in a rocking chair on the porch talking about the big disaster of 1989 - in OCTOBER, no less)! That was the Loma Prieta earthquake. I remember that quake in particular, not only because it was so scary, people died, and there was a great deal of devastation, but I had just come home from the hospital after surgery. I had just taken a pain pill, made a phone call, the line went dead and the house violently shook. I was up, dressed and in the car in only minutes. I needed to check on my sister who was home by herself. My parents were on vacation and she was watching the house. I felt sorry for my parents, who were flooded with TV clips of devastation, unable to get through via phone to make sure my sister and I were fine. Four hours after trying, my parents were able to get in touch, by CB radio, with someone they knew in Nevada, who knew someone in Milpitas, who called us on the phone. We were fine, and so the relay of messages went back all the way to a rural farm in the middle of nowhere.
The one thing that can be said for disaster is that people seem to rise above and beyond all of their differences, hostilities & limitations. Strangers you’ve never met, and neighbors, who barely speak to you, come by to make sure you’re OK, that there aren’t any gas leaks, do you need a cell phone, or first aid, and can they help? Nothing seems to bring out the great capacity for our human kindness the way a disaster does. It’s heartwarming and inspirational. I just wish that it didn’t take disaster to make us kinder and friendlier, and more willing to reach out to those in need.