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I feel the earth move under my feet

Friday, April 18, 2008

Of course the big news today was the 5.2-magnitude earthquake that hit the midwest this morning. It was really quite an experience to be awakened in such a manner.

For the first instant or so, I thought it was a thunderstrike since we've been sleeping with the bedroom window open and, what with all the rain we've had so far this year, doesn't raise much more than an eyebrow anymore. My second immediate thought was a truck, as I can feel the garbage truck when it rumbles through in the early morning. Next thought was perhaps a gracious neighbor kind enough to share the rhythmic strains of his car stereo for all to share (this, too, is not unheard of in this neighborhood). All this occurred to me in the first couple seconds, because by the time my wife sat up in a panic, I knew we were in for a ride.

It's all relative, of course. While it only lasted about ten seconds, it seemed much longer. The wife tells me she was afraid of the roof coming down on all of us, which I guess is a valid concern, especially since our house is a hundred years old and our bedroom is on the third floor. My concern is damage to the foundation or elsewhere internal to the house's structure. I made a cursory inspection and didn't see any cracks in walls, crooked pictures, or anything of that nature, and I don't think any objects were even shifted in place. Still, it does give you a sense of how vulnerable we humans are, despite the flooding we've had in our area of late.

One thing I did find bizarre was the utter quiet after the fact. No barking dogs (except ours, who sleeps in our bed and stopped barking the first time we told her to), no car alarms, no neighbors in the street saying "What the hell was that?" (I should qualify "quiet." The kids, too excited to go back to bed, decided 4:35 was a good time to start arguing, slamming doors, and the other assorted noises kids generally make when their parents are trying to sleep.)

Another aspect I still find interesting is not only was the epicenter less than 40 miles from where we live, but that it was felt hundreds of miles away. Given our proximity and its intensity, I'm frankly surprised it wasn't more servere and I suppose we should be grateful there was no damage (here, anyway).

For years, they've been warning us of "the big one" due the midwest. While this was just a little taste, I find it difficult to be too concerned. If shit happens, it happens regardless, and there's no point in getting worked up and living life in fear. The best you can hope to do is stay calm in the thick of it, take stock in the aftermath, and move on. Now, several hours later, I can help but think how cool it was. It wasn't, really, but it sure seems like it. (Maybe I shouldn't mention I was actually kind of pissed I somehow missed the 4.6-magnitude aftershock. Everyone was talking about it, but my colleague and I didn't feel a thing. Damn.)

So in light of it all, I felt it appropriate to channel a little Carole King. But if the sky comes tumbling down, I'm outta here.