Friday, March 11, 2011
I came out of a building in downtown Lima when I was 12 years old, the ground shaking. My friend gripped my arm, her face white, and we watched as all around us the buildings swayed, the glass cracking and tumbling down. "Let go, let go," I pled. "I've got to run." But she held on and in our terror we lasted out the nearly minute-long 8.1 earthquake. While there weren't many lives lost to the quake, it triggered huge mudslides in the mountains that wiped out an entire town. After that experience-- my first earthquake ever--whenever we'd feel an aftershock, no matter where we were in our house in Miraflores, we'd tear downstairs, fling open the door and stand--all of us--in the doorway, waiting out the temblors.
I live in California, and occasionally I'll feel an earthquake--a shake, a crackling of the wood beams in the walls of my house, a sudden unsettling of the floor. I go very still and I wait, poised to run down my stairs and stand in the open doorway. My house is a frame house and we are perched on granite, so my rational mind knows I'm in good shape. But when you feel the vibrations, no matter where you are, you go very still while your mind races on and on. When I moved to Wisconsin, people kind of thought I was funny to have lived in California with all its earthquakes, but after a particularly bad tornado season--and after spending a lot of time in my basement--I wondered which disaster is worse: the one you anticipate or the one that travels through the earth unbidden and unannounced.
A disaster is a disaster, no matter what form it takes. I watched the news all day long; my thoughts and prayers and hopes and courage go to those suffering at this time from the earthquake and tsunami devastation, far far away.