Earthquake in DC

When the house started to shake and roll, my 90 year old mother went to look outside to see if Hurricane Irene was arriving days ahead of predictions. She lived her entire life in the area affected by the 5.8 magnitude earthquake and had not experienced one before. She had no reference for understanding the rattling of the earth around her.

One of my sisters, who also lives in the D.C. Area, has lived in California for a number of years and she recognized the event correctly and quickly. My sister was able to share a laugh with her over their very different levels of experience and the fact that no real damage was done.

Many people who spent their whole lives on the east coast did not have daughters who could identify the shaking of a whole building. There are reports from many places of people thinking about the coming ten year anniversary of the bombing of the World Trade Center, wondered about another terrorist attack. We respond to events through the training of our background right up to the point that we lose our frame of reference. Sharing our histories allows us to be more settled, less afraid in the face of new events.

Early reports suggest that the Washington area escaped serious damage in most cases. Sadly, there is a report that parts of the National Cathedral were damaged in the quake. I grew up seeing the cathedral in the process of being built, always with its thick jacket of scaffolding for stone masons and carvers who spent the entire careers on a single building. We spent an afternoon there 3 weeks ago to see the “finished” cathedral, a first for me. How much scaffolding will be needed for how many years of repairs?

In school, they always told us that the east coast was subject to earthquake's but sense none of us had felt one, it was pretty much information that we kept in deep memory. I am almost sorry that I was in Texas when this one hit. What fun to find out 50 years later that those early geography lessons were correct. Instead, I still cannot talk about living through an earthquake, but I shared it with two of my grandchildren.

Raymond informed me that his legs were still shaking after the quake stopped. Sean observed that he was sure that something was under the sofa causing it shake that way. They seemed to take the whole trauma in stride as the house was still standing and they got an apology from their mother. My daughter in law is another life long east coast resident. She grew up in Philadelphia where geologic activity was apparently booed out of town by the southeastern Pennsylvania fan base. When I called to see how they had weathered the quake, she was still excited and told me she had no idea what was going on. In fact, her first reaction was to tell the three boys to stop whatever they were doing immediately. Knowing my grandchildren, I can understand how she made this mistake.

East coast or west, an earthquake is still an earthquake. A new experience for most of the 12 million Americans living in the area where this one could be felt will produce lots of stories. Some funny and some will be sad but each story helps to define events. Visit Story Chip and add your earthquake story.

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