Monday, July 18, 2005

Earthqu-ache of Yesteryear

When I was 6 years old, my father took me to see "Superman." I left the theatre with a crush on Christopher Reeve and a vow never to live in California. I didn't want to have to deal with earthquakes.

In 1994, when I moved to Seattle for the first time, I had no idea that the Puget Sound area was on a fault line. I was on the phone with a friend from the East Coast when I experienced my first earthquake. The earthquake registered 5.0 on the Richter scale, and had the effect of making me giggly. As I sat under my desk, phone in hand, the room shook and I laughed. My friend on the phone was only mildly concerned.

Six years later, I was back in Seattle, newly married, and getting ready to work a long day (1-9 pm). I had been out of the shower for only a few minutes before the floor began to buckle and heave. I made my way toward the nearest doorway frame and waited for the house to shake a few more times before calming down. It didn't calm down. It got faster and more forceful. I considered the possibility that the earthquake would never end. I pictured myself hanging onto the railing of the stairs in my apartment building. I imagined that was how FEMA would find me.

The event was dubbed "the Nisqually earthquake." It registered 6.8 on the Richter scale, but was so deep that the damage was not as extensive as it might have been. Since Seattlites love drama, the news stations repeatedly showed pictures of the same demolished car, the same caved-in building. I would have appreciated the footage much more had my parents not seen it on the news.

While I was outside, waiting for possible aftershocks and talking with the neighbors across the street, a van pulled up. Val, a friend of mine I hadn't seen in years stuck her head out the window and said, "Alkelda! What's going on?"

"We had an earthquake," I said.

"Really?" Val was genuinely puzzled. "I just thought the tires were going flat."

I wrote this post for on February 28, 2001, the day of the Nisqually earthquake:

I was at home when the earthquake hit. The phone lines were clogged, but DSL was working fine. However, the keyboard was not-- neither the "i" nor the "k" was functioning. So, this is the email message I sent out:

The earthquae ht after eye had just gotten out of the shower. eye was able to get outsde and stand wth neghbors. they had been wocen up by the earthquae and were wrapped up en blanquets. the phone lns are not worcng now but dsl es. mracle of mracles! ths on ash wednesday of all days. eye am ocay. eye hope there are no bg aftershocs. yes et was scary. Don't tell any one eye sed "help!" before eye ran out sde n my bathrobe and slppers.

It could have been worse. The earthquake happened during a lot of library storytimes. Most people kept their heads, but one mother ran out of the story room and left her child inside. Someday, I'm going to write a Young Adult novel about that child.

No comments: