“Well, I suppose the earthquake is over. What is left standing?”
– L.M. Montgomery, Emily’s Quest
The earthquake that justifiably freaked out the East Coast a couple of days ago had it’s center only a few miles from my parents’ house. During my check in phone call to see how they all fared, yet another aftershock struck. “Oh dear,” Mum sighed before bellowing, “Everyone out of the house!” right into my ear. We then continued our conversation with everyone in the yard and my sibs rolling their eyes at the inconvenience, teenage style.
My family is notoriously unfazed by natural disasters, because we’ve lived through a great many of them. Earthquakes have featured heavily.
Mum spent a good chunk of her girlhood in Japan and can tell many a tale of the earth heaving beneath her feet – including one rather hilarious account of having to leap from a bathtub and run into the street wearing naught but a towel.
More randomly, an earthquake struck Germany when we were living there.
Then we moved to the Pacific when I was 15, to an island that experiences probably a dozen earthquakes a year (in addition to typhoons, but that’s another blog post). Most were small, a tiny shudder, your bed rocking once beneath you; the earth more or less hiccuping. But about once a year, a large one would strike, wreaking havoc on an already poor, unstable, lonely island and shutting services and communications down for a period of time.
I cringe to tell you that I slept through two of the most massive earthquakes in that godforsaken rock’s recent history and am therefore unable to report on them. However I did manage to wake up for the third and biggest shaker (thanks mostly to Mum – in the same crisp tone as she used on the phone – ordering me awake and to the doorway). I was still half asleep as we watched the ground go up and down in waves. It felt like half an hour but it was only seconds before the rumbling and the pitching faded.
We found Buddy dangling by his pajama shirt, which had become hooked on the ladder of his top bunk bed, and yelling for help. We all got a chuckle out of his predicament and yanked him down. Minutes later we were all panicking to find that Snicker’s bookcase had collapsed on her bed and her dresser was blocking the door but for an inch – through which we couldn’t see if she was alive, hurt, or worse. Dad mobilized: he shoved his shoulder into the door, dragged the bookcase off – when it turned out that the miraculous had happened and the shelves had fallen to perfectly frame my sister’s little body without touching her, missing her skull by inches. Snickers had slept through it.
This time she made it out of the gym with only one shoe, she’d been in the process of putting the other on when the quake struck. Buddy apparently was the one who ordered his Spanish class under the desks and the out the door when the shuddering was over. Also, their high school partially collapsed, no one seriously hurt. Weirdly enough, it’s nothing we haven’t experienced before. I’m not sure whether that makes us sangfroid in the face of disaster, or just terribly well-adjusted travelers.