Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Shake, Rattle and Roll

This morning as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and finally had a chance to shower, I did what I always do and flipped the radio in the bathroom on. It is always on NPR because I am really rather addicted to NPR if you must honestly know my nerdy ways. I learn so much from this station from actual real live WORLD news to the local happenings.

I was greeted this morning to the usual NPR announcer stating there was a 5.6 earthquake in San Jose. 5.6 - do you know how big that is?!?! I immediately ran to hide in the door frame! Not really but that is likely what I might have thought about doing if I still lived in San Jose - mostly I would just pause what ever it was I was doing at the moment of the earthquake just to be sure it was not the BIG one.

For me, my memories of earthquakes are numerous from the 1st shaker we experienced upon moving to San Jose in 1979. It was summer and it scared the crap out of little 5 year old me - I was crawling under the table in the kitchen just being five when IT happened - the red Berber moved beneath me - it was '79 people RED Berber was IN! My brother did not help much. After the quake, he sat on the hood of the brown Honda Civic wagon parked in our driveway. Paul proceeded to tell me that the earth usually opened up when an earthquake occurred and would swallow everything around it. That there is no way to tell if and when the earth would open up and who knows it could happen right under our house. Ah, sibling love...

I remember swimming and feeling quakes - ripples in the water and water slopping over the edge of the pool even though no one was swimming, a coach saying he felt the earth move and than the next set is... like nothing happened.

I remember the time my mom came to my room in the middle of the night scared to death over a 5.0 quake which I slept through though when she came in I was gripping either side of my bed like I was riding on my magic mattress ride and did not even wake up to the thing though some subconscious thought reminded me to HOLD ON!

I still cringe slightly and look up at a certain loud sound that a truck makes because it reminds me of the sound before an earthquake. A shuddering rippling noise that starts out far off and gets closer, slowly or is it quickly? ...coming closer still... that odd sensation of the ground swimming beneath ones feet. Like riding an unexpected wave in the ocean that was once your living room. Some quakes were wavy or bumpy or flat or stuttering or rolling...

I remember dropping my backpack that day in '89. The backpack seemed to start the entire room shaking but this time the shaking did not stop. And I knew somewhere in my 16 year old brain this this was not good, this was HUGE. I ran from my 2nd story room down the hall way... the hall way bumped into me - NOT GOOD... I ran faster - I leaped down the final four stairs something I likely could not do ever again unless, of course, I am in a huge earthquake... I stumbled at the bottom of the stairs, recovered, tumbled to the ground under our kitchen table (stop drop and roll?), gasping, alarms sounding and me - shaking, crashing sounds all around me - I was home alone.

Then it stopped as quickly as it started. Silence. Alarms. Silence. The silence you hear when all of the electricity goes out. Then sirens. I was shaking. The large art history books and clay statues normally housed on my mother's bookshelves lay around me... One very near my head. I could not breath. Same kitchen table as the 1st one I mentioned back in '79 by the way... My savior?

I could only think of everyone else. I was okay - was everyone else? I skipped swim practice - where my swim friends okay, had the waves been huge? My mom... where the hell was she? My brother, my sister? (my dad was living in San Clemente at the time so I was not worried about him...) I grabbed the phone and started dialing before I realized... NO, no line. Well before cell phones and signals from towers. Nothing but a busy signal.

I ran up to my room in time for an aftershock. I never really cried - just shook. I found my Walkman and ran downstairs again to live under the kitchen table. The DOG! I ran to get the dog. I cuddled with her, for protection? Contact. I slipped the headphones on and listened. Mostly there was nothing until I went to AM. Then there was devastation. Things had collapsed. - the World Series stopped... People dead. Without the TV, I had my own images. My own thoughts. No phone and alone... I stayed put until I finally heard the garage door.

Than I ran to my mother. She was okay. Stuck in the Arts building at San Jose State in the dark, near of all things the huge bronze & clay statues that fell around her. We took deep breathes. It was hot that year in October. So we proceeded to sweat, even more. That night was terror. We tried to sleep, mostly we pretended. With each aftershock, we hugged and waited for something worse, again. Even though the reports told us this was not going to happen, maybe... We stood in the door way and looked out at the world after each aftershock - what we were looking for I do not know - you cannot SEE the earthquake coming, you can just hear it - sometimes...

It is like a dream that last quake that I remember from 1989. I am sure between 1989 and the last time I really lived in San Jose in 1992 there were other quakes but these are my strongest memories. I live in a place now that does not have earthquakes but tornadoes. I am slightly more afraid of tornadoes - which is odd because we know when a storm is coming but not when an earthquake will occur. Maybe it is because I knew about earthquakes, grew up with them, did drills for them in school and lived through so many of them that they are a part of my language, my story... they remain a part of me. When I read about this quake it still makes me shudder a little, it reminds me of that day in 1989 when the world seemed to stop, for at least 15 seconds...

3 comments:

Kate's mom said...

Wow...nicely written! I could envision your plight and your hideout under the kitchen table. I too, lived in Cali when I was little (Coalinga- 1979(?) - 1980). A few months after moving to Minnesota, there was a LARGE e-quake that went through Coalinga (outside of Fresno)...I think it was in the 6. range. I remember mom telling me that our pool (at our old house in CAli) survived, but that our neighbors had a lot of damage...as did my two story play house. :( I have a few memories of shaking while there..mostly standing in doorways and watching glasses shake in mom's china cabinet...it is an EEEERY feeling to say the least.

Welcome to our World said...

Indeed, it is an eerie sensation - I am still terrified of tornados more so than earthquakes!!

I remember that Coalinga quake as well! The news coverage of it was overwhelming in CA as usual!

jennifer said...

My most 'tell it over and over' story from that earthquake was that my newt (and his name was MyNewt cause he needed a new bowl, and the basketball player with the same name MyNewt Bowl...) got decapitated by a trophy that fell off my bookcase. Poor little guy. Body one place, head in another :( and of course, finding all 4 of the cats!