Tuesday, July 29, 2008

All Shook Up

Toady will not go down as one of my favorite days in history. Yes, I am talking about the earthquake. As a native California I have been through a good share of them, present for all the ‘bigger’ ones since 1975. But today was different. It was the first day I experienced one as a parent.

The first one I remember came during a morning while I was still in grade school, maybe 7th or 8th. I was in a meeting of the student council for my school, we were gathered in the Kindergarten classroom, Mrs. Tucker (the kindergarten teacher, mind you) presiding over the event. It hit and she let out a short expletive and told us to get under the tables. A bit of a problem as we were frozen in place by her expletive, and hampered by the fact that the tables were designed for people measuring 3 feet tall or so. Not a problem for me, but my buddy Kevin did not fit under so well.

The next one was experienced at a friend’s home, from a guest room on the second floor, hitting in the wee hours. Not very fun to wake to a strange family all gathered near their second floor balustrade, not sure what to do.

The ‘big’ Northridge quake was a doozy. I was asleep on a foreign couch, we had plans for an early beach/surf trip with the boys before they would bring me to LAX to fly back to NY to start school. I woke to the sight of their backyard pool with waves splashing over its lip and a large sliding glass door bending and shaking about 2 feet from the couch. Oddly enough, I did end up going to the beach that day (the guys were stoked on the thought of huge waves from the quake. Whatever). And I flew out to NY that night (much to my chagrin…I never really did get used to leaving California, quakes and all).

The last one is barely worth mentioning much. It was not that big, but at the time Tim and I lived in your typical box-like apartment in a second floor unit. It felt like we were in a house made of matchsticks as the structure bent back and forth precariously, but no harm done. Except I think I had just had my wisdom teeth out and was in no mood to be shaken. I do not think we even got out of bed.

But today. That was different. The boys had just gone down for their nap, I pulled Owen’s blankie up a bit and went to the window to make sure the drapes were pulled tight. We keep their room like a cave for sleep, almost total blackout except for a little light. As I reached, I felt the earth turn a bit, then heard a huge bang and felt a huge jolt, like an impact into the side of the house. It then dawned on me….Earthquake. I felt disoriented from the darkness and the waves rolling underneath. I could not tell if it was still going or if my adrenaline was making me woozy. I waited a moment to see what was next, if it would intensify or die down. It slowed and I opened the door to find my dad and brother waiting to help. We realized that was it for now and decided to let the boys sleep, staying close just in case. The news reports made me feel a bit reassured. It seemed like this was the culmination of the Earth’s protest for the day. And my boys slept two and a half hours (a rarity), all of which I spent on the edge of my seat. Ah, the irony.

The previous paragraph does little to describe the way I felt during this episode. The surge of fear then fierceness. The desire to keep them totally safe and the knowledge that I had no real way of controlling any of the variables. Being the parent instead of the child, shouldering the responsibility for their safety. A very different feeling than ever before.

I knew what to do. Tim and I discussed earthquake plans early in their time with us. We designated which one and where each of us would go. We know what to do when there is a big one (never have followed it yet). We tend to ruminate on this stuff. We even had a emergency plan when we lived in the LES. It consisted of riding our bikes with backpacks over the Williamsburg Bridge to our friend’s place in Brooklyn (because Brooklyn is safe, you know)(how we would have returned to California, well, we did not get to that part). But it all tends to fall away in the moment of.

I am so glad it was not a bad one. People and places seem fine, we are fine. A little rattled, shaken, off kilter. So too seems our Mother Earth. Hope she has calmed down for now.

Writing this made me think of something else. There was a major problem with land line and cell phone service after the quake (it was all anyone was talking about on the news. Crazy). But there is something you can do to make contacting loved ones easier in the event of an emergency.

Have you heard of ICE? Stands for In Case (of) Emergency. I think most emergency responders are trained to look for an ICE number in your phone in the event that you cannot tell them who to call (god forbid). It would be a good thing to put into your children’s phones, too. Just enter ICE as the name and the number of the person whom you want called.
just because
Wishing you an safe and uneventful week. Smiles.
with opa
my right hand man some days


pinkurocks said...

Arggh...so glad to hear you are all ok. Earthquakes are THE worst. Tokyo is due for the big one, and we get them regularly here like at least a couple times a month usually. We tried to sort out an emergency bag but we kept taking stuff out of it...we do have a emergency meeting location organized though. Babies (or toddlers in your case) are so precious aren't they?! I hear it is common for Japanese parents to pop to the cornerstore while their kids are sleeping, but I just couldn't fathom it!!!! What if the big one hit and I wasn't there or couldn't get back into the apartment..it makes me feel sick just to think about it.

LauraC said...

Goodness, I can not even imagine the panic and fear! I was going to Caltech during the Northridge earthquake and was working on homework when it hit. As soon as it was over, we immediately ran to the seismic center to get on tv! I called my parents and said - there's been a huge earthquake, I'm fine, look for me on tv!

Now I understand why my mom was crying on the phone!

Bea said...

I'm so glad you guys are ok! My hubby is in Glendale on business, and I didn't hear about the earthquake until I listened to a voicemail from him saying he was ok, it just made me so thankful that there wasn't much damage with this one. I think the emergency plan is a great idea, I've been thinking about doing one for us, and packing an emergency tornado bag, since we don't get many earthquakes in Arkansas!

Anonymous said...

So crazy! I'm glad you're all okay! I was freaked out, and I'm just me - I can only imagine how you must have felt, experiencing it as a mom for the first time!

Oh, and yeah - I totally had the exact same thought as you about the cell and land line after the fact. Hello?? Not feeling super confident "in the event of an actual emergency!" Yikes!

Dawn Johnson said...

I am so glad to know that you and yours are safe and sound. I loved hearing that the boys slept right through it. May they always be safe like that.

Carrie & Brook said...

We frequently have earthquakes in Anchorage, but the first one that I remember being really emotionally distraught from was when I was 12 weeks pregnant with the boys. Normally we just ride them out under the doorway, but I was completely and utterly a mess.

I think this is when the world of motherhood actually 'hit' me and I no longer cared about myself as much as wanting to protect those two little beans growing inside of me.

So far, the earthquakes that we've had, the boys have not even been phased by them.

I'm glad to hear that you are ok--and thanks for reminding me to put ICE in my phone. I've got Poison Control on speed dial, but no ICE.

Claroux said...

WOW! You must have been a wreck! I can't believe the boys slept through it! our girls sleep through thunder storms all the time but I don't think they would make it through what you just experienced. Thank goodness everyone is okay. I always said the lack of any major weather and/or natural disasters was the only plus to living in New Jersey! We seriously get NOTHING of any consequence here - which is fine with me. And I LOVE the photo of your Dad with the boys - your Dad looks so warm and kind....just like you!

Supabloggasuprememama said...

goodness! I feel so bad to be so behind on your posting...I had no clue! How terrible that must've felt! its amazing how we all change when we are parents...everything changes with our new perspectives. I am so glad you are all okay!!!