Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Earthquake

Life is constantly filled with firsts. Case in point: I never thought I would be the type to run at breakneck speed after others out of a perfectly good building - but today I had that luxury. And though I've lived in Southern California for nearly a year and a half and experienced several small tremblors, today's earthquake was slightly different.

And though we were roughly 100 miles away from the 7.2-magnitude epicenter, we still experienced, um... a lot.

Nathaniel and I weren't doing anything out of the ordinary: just perusing books at the REI in Encinitas. He was going through a massive index of hikes throughout California, and I had just put down 'How to Not Get Eaten.'


I was reading up on Mountain Lions. And bears. (Nothing on sharks - I checked. Trust me).

Anyhow - I was just picking up another book when the shaking started.

At first it was really light, almost funny. I looked up and caught other patrons looking around. People were listening and I could hear laughter. It didn't seem all that bad... I turned to Nathaniel to make a joke and got ready to delve into my next selection, when the shaking seemed to intensify.

The rattling grew louder and louder, and I could see camping packs swaying on their holds. People's laughter turned to horrified gasps and - before I realized what was happening - the building started to sway.

It was very surreal - but I could feel the ground slipping and sliding underneath me. Almost like an amusement park ride - you know when you enter the Fun House and attempt to walk over the unstable floor? Same thing. Except the entire building around me was shaking.

People seemed frozen, rooted to their spots. No one wanted to move; instead they listened intently and studied the other patrons. In that moment before 'fight or flight' kicked in, we were paralyzed by fear - not knowing what was going to happen and unsure of what to do/how to react.

I could hear carrabeaners and objects all throughout the store dancing and rattling on their racks. And rather than stopping - because at this rate, things had been shaking for thirty seconds or so - it got worse. It was as though the cooking sets had developed minds of their own and were competing to make the loudest noise possible. The sleeping bags on display were swaying back and forth, the synthetic fabrics slipping and sliding against one another.

I kept waiting for the shaking to stop...but it didn't. And rationally - I knew that the building I was in was safe (REI!) and built well after California earthquake codes and been put into effect.

I looked around for a doorway or bench or anything to get under - but everything was open and nothing looked like a viable option. Besides, its not like I was on the 35th floor of a skyscraper (like characters from one of the many earthquake-themed movies my Dad enjoyed watching while we grew up.)

And that's when I saw people running - parents ushering their kids towards the door, grown men sprinting down the stairs to the exit, and several employees staring dumbfounded at each other.

When you hear people yelling, managers shouting for people to "WALK AND REMAIN CALM", and see items violently swaying on the shelves, you can't help but think, "GET ME OUT NOW!"

The shaking grew louder and louder and I could taste the fear twist my stomach into knots. Time seemed to slow down, and even though the shaking lasted officially for 90-120 seconds - it seemed to take a lot longer. It just didn't stop.

We needed to get out - pronto.

As the books were located near the back of the store, Nathaniel and I were some of the last ones to finally exit. He - being the cool-headed guy he is - remained calm and walked the entire time. I, on the other hand, ran like I stole something.

My first time sprinting out of a store - go figure.

At least my pneumonia-recovering lungs functioned properly. We must look on the bright side - right?

Even outside, we could still feel the ground shaking, still hear the low rumbling of earth moving. I put my hand on the paved parking lot and could feel the back-and-forth-never-quite-catching-up-to-itself-slipping motion of the earth beneath. And I will never forget it, as long as I live.

After (what felt like an eternity) - the shaking stopped, slowly fading into nothing. I looked around at the others in the parking lot - REI customers and patrons from the restaurant next-door were laughing nervously again, happy that it wasn't worse and appeared to be over. One of them was holding a drink of sorts, and I wondered if there was alcohol. I could have used a shot about then and on the drive home suggested to Nathaniel we stop along the way.

Thankfully The Pizza Port was closed. Oh well. (We didn't learn that unfortunate tidbit until after slowly driving by).

Additionally, I was surprised to see about half the people were on cell phones. Already.

And before I knew it (and after giving Nathaniel a quick hug), I called my Dad. He had survived the 1971 San Fernando quake, and growing up he would occasionally tell stories of being shaken awake, convinced a nuclear attack was underway.

Dude - if I was shaken out of bed at 6 am to a 6.6-earthquake, in which the epicenter was mere blocks from my dwelling - I would probably think the same thing.

I just had to tell him about my experience...and then see if he had heard any news reports about the quake.

Naturally, being that the darned thing had ended less than three minutes, nothing was appearing on any of the major news wires. But when he checked the US Geological Survey Site, he confirmed the quake. And then we swapped stores.

So there you have it.

Today I learned that I have no qualms against running from a swaying building, and that my husband remains cool under the most extenuating circumstances (I credit flight school and his Marine Aviator training). And when aftershocks hit, my anxiety level rises exponentially greater with each aftershock. But also that people are caring and understanding, and look out for one another. And...I will consider alcohol as a remedy for stress.

But even more important than that, is that life is unpredictable and you never know what you're going to experience as you greet the day. If it takes a bit of earth shaking to remind me of this fact, well then - okay. I'm just grateful that it wasn't worse.

And that I didn't pee my pants. Oh yeah, I knew there was something else I was forgetting...


Kim said...

yikes, that is SCARY! i think i would have done the same thing you did (RUN)! and i love the book you were perusing before the earthquake hit. too friggin funny.

Angela and David Kidd said...

Glad you guys are okay. I certainly would have pissed my pants. An REI store probably is the best place to be in that kind of situation.

My fear of earthquakes doesn't seem so irrational right now.

cherelli said...

Oh boy, I cannot imagine that feeling of all that is solid MOVING under your feet....waaaay too weird. I've always wondered if I was outside if all the animals really do go silent when they feel an earthquake about to occur...?I hope you had a great hike and "didn't get eaten" (which you obviously didn't but even a nibble would be concerning.)!

Jennifer Harrison said...

I read about that quake this AM - sooo glad you are ok!! Geez...i can totally see nate being calm and rational thru it all.!!!! :)

Bob Mitera said...

Glad you are alright. As a lifelong Chicagoan, NEVER, get pizza from any place that has "port" in its name. It has to be a name like "Lou", "Gino", "Connie".

San said...

Oh whoa, Glad you are alright. Must have been scary, especially when remembering Haiti and Chile.
There is still nearly nothing about this quake on the news sites, just checked.

I had my first earthquake experience about a year back. It was around 2 or 3 in the morning and I woke up due to the shaking. But I thought that it was a heavy weight transporter driving by. I just wondered that it took so long and got back to sleep.
A friend told me a few days later that it had in fact been an earthquake. I hadn't made the connection until then. The Black Forest or Germany in general aren't exactly known for earthquakes like California and Mexico. And I'm glad about it.

Again glad you are alright and that your lungs were on top of it. Have a good and quake free new week.

Pamela said...

So glad you're all right. Great description of your experience, Marit; I felt like I was right there. I actually have an unreasonable and huge fear of of the main reasons I've never considered living on the west coast. I WOULD absolutely pee my pants. And scream like a little girl. And then I'd drink...probably a lot.

Michelle Simmons said...

Glad you're ok! Earthquakes are totally freaky! I remember the 6.7 that happened on the Big Island a couple years ago and it woke me up out of bed here while my whole condo was shaking. You're right- seems like that shaking will never stop!!

Teresa said...

Wow! I am so glad you and Nathaniel are all right...what a frightening experience.

Only let the ground shake from your dance moves moving forward alright?!


SSB said...

Glad you are okay, the first thing i thought was, Tsunami warning?, then I thought of all you guys in So Cal.

I used to be woken up by them all the time in Japan since my bed was right next to the wall, I moved my bed out 6 inches and slept through the rest of them.

GoBigGreen said...

Glad you are ok. I remember when there was an EQ whlie i was in mexico about 3 years ago. We were in the little shop and had had 1 margarita. all the sudden the alarms went off and we thought someone was shoplifting. And then my margarita made the floors move and all the clothing fall off the racks and...That was some STRONG tequila. :)
It was pretty dang scarey and its amazing the fight or flight you have as time seems to stand still.

Hope you are feeling better!!

Beth said...

Yikes, yikes, yikes!! Glad you guys are okay! I would have been running like I stole something too! :)

Midwestern Dot said...

Wow, good to hear you're ok! You are funny...only you would turn a situation like this a) into a funny story and b) a learning experience. Glad Nathaniel was there to keep you calm!
Congrats on not peeing your pants...

Midwestern Dot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charisa said...

Glad you did not pee your pants :)

maija said...

Glad you are okay! I would be scared.

ojs said...

I thought of you guys when I heard it was near San Diego. Glad to hear that everything turned out okay and (yet again) thoroughly enjoyed hearing your recounting of a story.

Ange said...

wow....I've never experienced anything like that! I can't imagine!!! So glad you're OK! I saw it on the news and thought @ you guys.

Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) said...

Wow..that must have been terrifying and amazing at the same time! I'm glad you are alright!

Nicole @ Geek Turned Athlete said...

Oh my gosh! I've never been in an earthquake, but I never want to either! I'm glad that you ended up okay. I would have totally freaked out too. With Steve's special ops training, I'm sure he would have been as calm as Nathaniel asking me why I was freaking out!

Laura said...

Glad to hear everything turned out OK!!!

I was actually in No. Cal. when it happened and my parents called to ask if I was OK. Funny. I guess east coast people forget how BIG CA is and how far away San Fransisco is from Mexico!

Trigirlpink said...

Holy Crap.

Shachi said...

Glad you are okay! This is one of those things that I don't want to experience in my life :)