Natural Disaster

Yesterday, Japan experienced a tremor like nothing their country had ever seen before. Thousands are homeless, hundreds are missing. The official number of wounded only accounts for physical ailments, not the mental anguish of people who have lost friends, family or a feeling of security.

Japan is one of the most technologically advanced nations on our planet; the majority of its buildings are constructed to withstand violent shaking. But no matter how wiry and clever man thinks they’ve become, Mother Nature merely chuckles while walloping us with her soggy backhand. It was the tsunami that did it. No structure stood a chance.

When the muppets were staying at Chez NICU, I had a constant fear that the Bay Area would experience a similar disaster. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be right there for them, or be able to instantaneously get there. I anxiously feared how well their tiny bodies could handle the trauma of evacuation or malfunctioning equipment. (Numerous people later reassured me that in the event of THE BIG ONE, our brand new Kaiser hospital is the precise location they’d like to be.) These nightmares returned as I watched news coverage of SOS broadcast across a Japanese hospital roof. How are all the tiny babies faring?

Every geographic location is in danger of some type of natural disaster. All Californians are well aware “THE BIG ONE IS COMING.” That gets shoved down our throats every few months. Recent tragedies are a frightening reminder. Already, Bay Area residents are remembering the 1989 Loma Prieta quake. For me, that event was nothing more than a pin on our current events map in my fourth grade classroom. Apparently it also canceled a baseball game. Bummer.

I experienced the 1994 Northridge earthquake instead. I’m a California girl through and through – I spent the first half of my life in Southern California, about 20 minutes from the 1994 epicenter.

I got home late that night. I had a babysitting gig the evening of Jan. 16, 1994, and the parents assured me they’d be home by 11 p.m. At 1:30 a.m., January 17, I finally collapsed into my bed. (That family was officially marked on my “naughty families to work for” list.) We also had a brand new puppy – a hyperactive yellow lab named Stryder. He would leap against the kitchen door, rattling the door frame with his frantic whimpers and whines.

At 4:31 a.m. the rattling began in earnest. Stryder must have been furious for attention. The banging was so loud, I could feel it in my bed and see my mirror closet doors vibrating. “Stop it! I’m trying to sleep!” I instructed my dancing dresser. I was exhausted; it would be another decade and a half before I was prepared to forego sleep for tiny beings.

Then I heard my mother shout for me. As I brushed sleep out of my eyes, I felt another aftershock. “Holy crap! Earthquake!” I yelled as I bolted for the kitchen. “Did you feel that?!” My mom and brother were huddled under the kitchen table. Stryder was balled up in the center, absolutely adoring all his newfound pre-dawn attention. I’m pretty sure he thought the constant shaking and drone of the emergency radio was a bit annoying, but it was a fair trade off…

We listened to the news under that table for hours. An apartment building collapsed. Cal State Northridge was a circus (and would continue to be for years to come). Freeway pillars were bending under the pressure.

I was back at school the next day. Not many others were, though… I have a vivid memory of sitting in front of my eighth grade pre-algebra class, slumped against a wall with the proper combination of carefree and disdain appropriate for a tween. “This is one of those ‘remember where you were’ moments isn’t it?” I asked a friend.

A week later my father returned home from his San Francisco business trip. That evening, I was watching television, my brother was doing homework and my mom was in the kitchen praising Stryder for doing his business on a strategically placed wee-wee pad. The room began to rattle; it was another aftershock – less than half the original magnitude. My dad dove under the dining room table as though he had witnessed all four horsemen of the apocalypse in our living room. The rest of us continued about our business, only briefly pausing to observe my dad cowering under the table.

Based on the news reports informing the world about Japan’s current tragedy and the “ring of fire” earthquake zone, I know the muppets will experience their own “remember where you were moments” because THE BIG ONE is coming. I’m putting my faith in the U.S.’ retrofitting technologies.

And that shaking I feel right now? I’m relatively certain it’s just sugar withdrawals….

 

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2 responses to “Natural Disaster

  1. You crack me up…poor Gustavo – always the subject of some jesting! Hey, I’m with Janet – that one in Northridge in 71′ was a doozie – and scary – and that’s nothing next to Japan.

  2. The one in 71 was the worst for this family — we remember the block wall falling on our infamous Corvair — possible evacuation because they feared the Van Norman dam might break and inundate us with flooding. Quakes are scary no matter how many you experience. G.G.

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