It’s true that when you live in Los Angeles, you can be a bit blasé about earthquakes. I mean, we’re on a first name basis with our seismologists, Drs. Kate and Lucy. When a tremor happens, we immediately start shouting out numbers to as to what we think the quake measured – it’s seismic bingo. Then we look around our generally earthquake proof homes and straighten out the art.
Unless it’s January 1994, I’m in high school and basically living at the epicenter of one quite large earthquake. And we were left to do much more than just straighten pictures. It was four in the morning, there was no electricity and my parents went to sit in their phones and call family – because back then we kept our cell phones in cars. As the sun came up, we would begin to see the damage that flashlights only hinted at.
The swimming pool cracked down the center. A quite large pool, over eleven feet to the drain in the deep end, and half it’s water lost, unleashed tsunami-style, hitting the French doors a good twenty feet away. The kitchen about six inches deep in broken everything. So much wine and liquor and marinara sauce wafting through the air.
The walls dividing properties fell between everyone’s homes – suddenly the great big yards our dogs roamed were a bit too big. Humans were to wear shoes at all times, and dogs leashes. Preferably kept in areas outside, away from broken everything. Inside was just a jumbled mess. How each of got around falling televisions and artwork and bookcases to meet in the hallway as the house danced – I have no idea. And did one of us grab shoes on the way?
It’s one thing to be prepared; it’s another to actually put those preparations to use. Sensibility can go astray when you can see the walls of your house literally swaying.
We happened to have been quite prepared. Dining al fresco for several days afterward, even amidst all the aftershocks. Friends would stop by, everyone by the half-full pool still having a hard time believing what had happened. Some friends stayed for a few days as their house didn’t fare so well. But we were all safe. We were finding things to laugh about. That’s always a good sign.
Sometimes I can’t believe that quake ever happened. The six-foot walls between properties (the norm in Los Angeles) are now overgrown with the blooming vines that had to start anew when they all came tumbling down.
The damages were repaired, schools reopened, life resumed. We all felt incredibly lucky that it hadn’t been worse. We went back to our lives.
I remember one friend’s parents putting in these kitchen cabinets that could only open when you swiped a magnetic knob across the front. Some began bracketing bookcases to walls, televisions in their armoires. People better prepped their emergency kits. But I don’t know anyone who didn’t go back out and replace the broken everything with new potential breakables. The glass wasn’t swapped out with Tupperware.
And I don’t know anyone who left LA after the quake either. We are a resilient people, we Angelenos. We stay put.
(There’s an old joke that people are wrong when they say LA doesn’t have seasons: we have earthquakes, fires, floods and droughts. It’s not very funny, but it’s true.)
Angelenos aren’t considered the friendliest or the best drivers or our men the best dressed but through it all, we stand by our town. Even when it’s looking a bit like Humpty Dumpty. In Ed Hardy jeans. xo a.
And now, five great things someone else said about coping with what we cannot change:
For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’ No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster. – Dalai Lama
I have accepted fear as part of life – specifically the fear of change… I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back…. – Erica Jong
The first step to the knowledge of the wonder and mystery of life is the recognition of the monstrous nature of the earthly human realm as well as its glory, the realization that this is just how it is and that it cannot and will not be changed. Those who think they know how the universe could have been had they created it, without pain, without sorrow, without time, without death, are unfit for illumination. – Joseph Campbell
Observe always that everything is the result of change, and get used to thinking that there is nothing Nature loves so well as to change existing forms and make new ones like them. – Marcus Aurelius
To my friends on all coasts, all over the world, there are fault lines everywhere, but don’t stop living. Just be prepared. http://www.72hours.org This site is an absolute must for emergency preparedness. Make go-bags. And don’t forget the shoes!