I’ve been through several earthquakes during my lifetime, each one causing my nerves to rattle a little more as the severity increased.
The first experienced was in my hometown (Marshall, IL) when I was 9. The house shook and I raced to the back kitchen door to watch the telephone lines weaving up and down our side street, Hickory. Our church organist (Marilyn Fitzgerald) always told her earthquake story of practicing her worship music at that time and watching the stained glass windows undulate inward and outward. No panes cracked but the glass pieces were loosened from their adjoining attachments.
The next one was in Taiwan, the 1999 quake in the south part of the island, which killed 2,000 people. Collapsed buildings killed many, bringing to the forefront shoddy construction due to skipped safety protocol and skimping on using better materials and designs. That one sent my blinds rattling at 2:42 a.m.
The biggie was the Wenchuan 2008 Sichuan earthquake, 2:36 p.m., in which tens of thousands lost their lives. Once again, a scary experience for me but I was on the first floor of an apartment building in Chengdu. Easy to race outside quickly, as well as come and go freely every time a tremor hit that caused the building to shake too much.
Surprise Wake-up from the 9th Floor
In Luzhou, we’ve had several low-level shakings since then but this last one, 2 nights ago at close to 1 a.m., was definitely not pleasant.
Now that I live on the 9th floor, the highest I’ve ever lived in China, I now understand why people really panic when a seemingly Richter-scale low (3.6) hits.
On the top floors, it ain’t so low!
I was awakened by the entire building shaking for close to 10 seconds, with my vases falling over and my scrolls clanking against the wall. I immediately scrambled out of bed and crouched in my sitting room archway, not that it would help me any if the building came tumbling down.
There was silence for a few seconds after it stopped until I heard my neighbors to either side of me come out.
Chinese teachers Leon and Chip (roommates) were outside in the hallway, getting ready to hop into the elevator and go down to the first floor.
“Did you feel the earthquake?!” Leon said. “Maybe it’s not safe to stay in. We are going outside.”
Both had their cellphones in hand and were checking news reports for announcements of the epicenter and the quake size. They were also getting ready to call relatives and friends about what they’d experienced.
I told Leon that usually, the big quake is all we’ll get. After that, everything else is pretty tame. And also, not a wise decision to use the elevator.
“You should go down the stairs,” I suggested. “You don’t know if the elevator is safe or not.”
Leon and Chip, however, weren’t about ready to hike down the stairs.
“Oh, yes,” Leon said as he and his roommate stepped into the elevator. “You are right. Maybe it’s not safe. We will see.”
As the elevator doors closed on them, I just wondered if they’d go crashing down to the 1st floor. I certainly wasn’t going to trust the elevator yet. I took the stairs down.
I actually didn’t go outside for safety purposes but because I didn’t want to miss out on anything.
There was a huge sound of students shouting and stampeding down stairs to congregate in front of their dormitories. The dorms reach 6 floors, no elevators but stairwells, so they all managed to get out in a hurry.
Our security folk in their flashing red-light golf cart came speeding to the dorms to calm the students. I later heard that many of our young people, especially the freshmen, wanted to sleep outside on the sports field but they weren’t allowed. All were told to return to their rooms, which they didn’t do until 2:30 a.m., according to my seniors whom I had in class the next day.
As for my Chinese neighbors, three sets of families carried their bedding down and slept outside in their cars and SUVs the rest of the night. Others just stood or sat on the curbside, texting friends or calling people, until they tired of that and went back to their homes.
As for me, after about 30 minutes, I got bored and returned to my apartment using the stairs, once again. It was quite a long hike up but better safe than sorry.
I was happy to hear the next morning that the earthquake was slight enough that it did little damage and no deaths. That was a relief! And since the elevators were working fairly well, without anyone plunging to their deaths, I gave in and started using them again.
What I am not looking forward to is another one of those quakes happening again.
Luzhou usually is not on a fault line that will cause a lot of damage or fear when it comes to an earthquake but this last one, especially being on the 9th floor, wasn’t my idea of fun at all.
Hope my next entry is a little less exciting than this one. I am too old for that sort of excitement!
Until next time, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your day