Saturday, January 16, 2010

Thinking About Earthquakes

Of course, the entire world is focused on the impoverished country of Haiti which, even before the horrendous seismic disaster this past week, suffered from multiple socioeconomic problems.  Now, the poor Haitians are dealing with meeting their most basic needs, food and shelter, while mourning the loss of their families, suffering from major traumatic injuries and seeing what little they did have taken from them instantaneously in a moment's tremor of the the very earth at their feet.  Many of us have no idea what that even feels like, to have the ground shake beneath you, to wonder if the roof might topple on your head, but, those of us who live in
California know, and like the rest of the world, our hearts go out to the earthquake victims in this part of Hispanolia.  We have watched in dismay, glued to our television screens, as news has come out of Port au Prince, depicting grim scenes of trapped citizens, crying for help, children wandering the streets, looking for parents who are never going to be able to soothe them again.
Relief is still slow to come and it is hot and humid and miserable and their city is in ruins around them.

The greatest tragedy, of course, is the abject poverty of this nation.  Construction was so shabby, without any sort of building standards, that homes collapsed at the first tremor.  Even the hospital, schools, and presidential palace were no match for the fury of nature.  Hundreds of thousands of people, more than the population of many of our towns and cities, will never take a breath again!  Thousands more are suffering in agony from injuries caused during this earthquake.  The world is responding but what will happen in the months ahead to help the people recover from all this devastation?  There is no one in this nation who will not be suffering from post traumatic stress!

All morning long, I've been preoccupied with thoughts of earthquakes.  Living in the San Francisco area, of course, one must give this possibility some consideration.  When I first moved here, over thirty years ago, I remember when I felt my first tremor.  I was working in the operating room of a downtown hospital, "scrubbed" on a case when the surgical lights began
swaying.  I felt the floor move, as it sometimes did when someone was moving a heavy O.R. table down the hallway outside.  The anesthesiologist commented quietly, "Earthquake."  I looked at him in a panic as the surgeon continued on with the procedure.  Finally, in a squeaky
voice, I asked, "What are we going to do?"  My knees were weak and I was terrified.  The
surgeon looked calmly at me and said, "Well, we're going to finish this operation."

I fully expected to leave work that day to find buildings demolished and streets impassable.  However, the tremor had been a 3.6 and had caused no damage whatsoever.  I decided to take an earthquake course at a local community college to help overcome some of my anxieties about this whole issue.  It proved very interesting and helpful.  During the course, we learned how to prepare as much as possible for our own safety in the event of an earthquake, we did a tour of San Francisco and saw some of the areas damaged in the 1906 earthquake and we all had extra credit projects.  I got an A on mine.  I baked a cake in the shape of California and made different colored icings for all the different earthquake faults.  We ate it in our final class.

When we had our big Loma Prieta earthquake, October 17, 1989, I was on my way to the offices of Sunset Magazine in Palo Alto, CA for a big Caribbean Tourism Organization party.
I had almost reached my destination when my car suddenly became difficult to steer.  At first, I thought I had a flat tire.  Then, I noticed the car in front on me swaying and I realized we were
having an earthquake.  I looked about and didn't see any problem with the traffic lights or buildings along the way so I continued until I arrived at the Sunset offices.  Once inside, I saw several colleagues who told me a number of wine glasses had broken but the party started.  It wasn't until a staff member came out and said she had just seen t.v. news that there had been a major earthquake, and that a section of the Bay Bridge had collapsed, that we became aware of the true disaster.  I wanted to get home to my boys, fearing that the freeways might be down.  I had no problem making it to Pacifica and all were safe.  As I hugged my sons tightly, they squirmed and said, "Mom, it's okay, we just got under the table, like we practiced!

The Loma Prieta earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.1, had a loss of 62 lives, left 3757 people injured and the estimated damage toll was between $6 and $10 billion.  The earthquake itself lasted about 15 seconds.  The Haiti earthquake had a magnitude of 7 and the estimated death toll is more than 100,000 or higher.  The number of injured is in the hundreds of thousands.  Nearly all of Port au Prince is homeless.

Today, I looked on the US Geological Survey website at the section on California earthquakes because, in the past couple of weeks, I've felt a couple of tremors.  I usually sit at my computer ( my room is downstairs ), waiting to see if the movement subsides before I run outside!  I was amazed to see that, between 1-9-10 and 1-16-10, there have been  546  recorded California earthquakes.  Of course, most of them have been very small earthquakes.  Thirty-three of them,
the USGS listed in bolder print, indicating 3.0 or higher.  January 7, 2010, there was an earthquake of 4.1 in the San Francisco Bay area and, on January 10, 2010, there was an offshore earthquake of 6.5 in northern California near Ferndale in Humboldt County.  With all this shaking and the horrible situation in Haiti, I've rechecked my earthquake supplies, updated flashlights and batteries, replenished my first aid kit and medications and feel I am prepared as I can be for such a catastrophe.  I just pray that none happens.

No matter what our situations are,  none of us can be suffering as are the people of Haiti.  I hope everyone is doing whatever they can to contribute to support the great need there.  If dollars are scare, please offer prayers!  As one who lives in what we term "earthquake country" - there, but for the grace of God, go I -


  1. Excellent post.

    Living in Souther California I know how scary it is when the "earth moves". It's just plain awful. And the aftershocks are unnerving!

    I've sent love, prayers and money to Haiti to help. Thank you for this terrific reminder of the people of Haiti.


  2. It's so sad to see on the news! The children who are now orphaned are ripping my heart!

  3. I was watching a baseball game on TV when I the earthquake happened in 1989....still remember the fear I felt for those people on the bridge.....please be careful Carmen as I know California is on a major fault line. I am glad you are prepared as you can be. My heart aches for these dear, dear people....we will never know how they are feeling.....Hugs

  4. My heart goes out to all affected. Like you, I live in an eathquake zone and it is a case of "There but for the grace of God..." I was so scared when I experienced my first tremor here.

  5. Carmen..i too have been glued to CNN....We lived in Cambria when the San Simeon earthquake it...and we were also in Cambria when that one hit the bay area in 1989...i remember the dining room lamp swinging round and round....pretty scary....i can't stop thinking about them either....

    As far as last night brother and his wife came by..and to be perfectly honest..we got into the wine and only made it across the street to Del Monte Cafe..but we had fun....

    I'll let you know when we hit Firestone...

    more later,

  6. Hello!! The Brenda Photo Challenge Blog is Open for business again! Hope you had Happy Holidays! See you there!

    Made In Heaven

  7. You move to Texas Girl! The only thing you have to make the Earth "move" for you are Tornados...Hahaa...STAY SAFE OUT THERE!!!

  8. thank you for this post carmen, one cannot help but think of all those people, what a tragedy!

  9. though we can't fight against the natural disasters we can take the precautions or practice saving ourselves from it and pray to God.....

  10. I think those of us who live in California (I live in the L.A. area) understand what happened in Haiti better than many. I grew up here and my first major earthquake was in 1971, when I was a kid. I saw all the damage in Port-au-Prince and was so thankful for our building codes! Not to mention our government - whether you love or hate any given person in office, at least it's stable, unlike Haiti's dark political history. I so feel for these people - they were bad off to begin with. I hope help is coming through to them with a minimum of red tape.

  11. What happened in Haiti is unimaginable for me. I do not think anybody whe was not there, could comprehend the utter desolation that that country must be experiencing. I cannot imagine (and I have tried to) waking up to a world around me completely changed for ever. Family, friends, houses, everything... just gone!

  12. Living in The Philippines which is along many fault lines, and outlines with volcanoes, the entire Philippines is along "the ring of fire" and we are always told that at any moment, a quake could hit.

    I have experienced so many earthquakes whilst living here! Thankfully enough, even during very strong earthquakes, we never get collapsed buildings! And The Philippines is a third world country! All through the mercies of God! Glory to God! I am so very thankful!

    But then, we are hit by disastrous floods that sweep hundreds of people and property away! Like just last year!

    I know what you mean when you write about dealing with post-trauma after undergoing a very traumatic experience like that. It's very hard, really.

    We are also beginning to think about earthquake preparedness. But I truly and strongly believe that the best and the smartest thing to do is to put all of our trust and faith for our lives and the lives and COMPLETE safety of our loved ones, in the hands of GOD.


  13. i heard the news very the evening...that too when i heard it from a frnd .......the picture were horrifying... may god give the people of Haiti the strength of over coming this disaster......

  14. Sunday, January 17th, 2010
    Dear Carmen,
    Sorry that I haven't been keeping up with comments to you. I wrote a comment that disappeared. I'll get back with you in a few days.
    My modem suddenly stopped working and I have been offline a little more than a week. I am sitting at the public library trying to catch up.
    If you had your ad on my widget during the 11th to the 15th of January, please let me know in a comment, and I will give you an extra thank-you-link.
    Best wishes,

  15. Hi Carmen! Sorry for the delay, but a new year always brings new troubles...
    Excellent post!!

    Meanwhile a new blog is born: Blogtrotter Two! Hope you enjoy at least as much as the previous version and look forward to reading your comments!
    Have a great week ahead!!! Gil

  16. I've been in one earthquake and it was terrifying. Here in AZ we're pretty safe from everything except scorpion bites and heat strokes. Our prayers continue for the suffering in Haiti.

  17. It is very sad to hear about Nature problems but we are really helpless !! We can pray to God for the wellness of World !!

  18. Joanna Jenkins - hello, neighbor to the south,
    thankfully, help is finally reach Haiti but
    it will be so long before rebuilding starts.
    They just are not set up for that. They so
    desperately need Habitat for Humanity and
    lots of construction materials and equipment!

    Icy BC - yes, the little ones,who cannot even
    understand what's going on, are the saddest.

    Bernie - CA is a series of many fault lines.
    I live right on the San Andreas which is
    constantly shaking. They are always talking
    about "the big one." I think 1989 was big
    enough. Haiti was certainly a huge one but
    the scientists are saying there will be
    another in Jamaica or somewhere in the
    region in the next 20 years! Wow.

    Welchcakes Limoncello - I know, when I was in
    Sicily on a cruise a few years back, Mt.
    Etna was emitting smoke, and erupted, I
    believe, a short time later. So many parts
    of the world are earthquake prone. Poor
    Haiti, hopefully, will not experience another
    in the near future.

    My Farmhouse Kitchen - I just read about the
    earthquake in Cambria...didn't know about
    that one until I was studying up on CA

    How nive to have restaurants right out your
    back door - then you can drink your wine &
    not worry at all about driving!

    Donna - being from Georgia originally, I know
    about tornadoes...they are pretty terrifying.

  19. Manuela - the pictures of Haiti stay with me all
    the time now..such horror!

    Priyanka Bhowmick - I know when it's your time
    to go, that's it - but I do believe being
    prepared lessens the likelihood of death and
    severe injury. Also, teaching children what
    to do, in an earthquake, makes good sense &
    makes it less terrifying for them. We have
    a supply of canned food and water, blankets,
    etc, flashlights, batteries, a battery radio,
    always ready.

    Janiss - you are so right about Haiti and
    their political history! Their impoverish-
    ment, also, will make recovery difficult for
    them but, hopefully, with so many nations
    racing to help, maybe they will rise out of
    the ashes. It is terribly sad, though, at
    the overwhelming loss of life.

    A human kind of human - the world has seen so
    many of these horrible tragedies of late,
    with thousands of deaths and entire villages
    gone. How people manage to pull themselves
    together and endure is amazing.

    c - I have several dear friends in your
    country - crew friends from Royal Caribbean.
    I always watch news of events there and
    pray. This recent flooding was very scary
    as some of my friends were home on leave at
    that time. Fortunately, all were safe.
    The world's catastrophes are terrifying and
    heartbreaking to watch for, though we are
    separated by land and sea, we are still
    brothers and sisters and I feel for the
    suffering of others. The devastation in
    Haiti is so overwhelming and, though we can
    donate money and rush aid, we cannot erase
    the loss of lives and make up for the pain
    everyone feels at the death of loved ones.

    Hitesh - yes, God must help where we cannot.

    Anna - sorry about your computer woes..isn't
    that always a bummer. I'll check about my
    ads...not a problem, though.

    Trotter - I know I will enjoy your new blog as
    much as the other...your travel tales delight
    me, especially now that my job loss and
    forced retirement ( and $90,000 less income
    per year ) mean I barely travel to the
    grocery store!

  20. Jenny - I wouldn't want to see a scorpion or a
    Gila monster ( isn't that what they call
    those poisonous lizards? ). Arizona is nice,

    I think heaven is really being bombarded on
    behalf of Haiti!

    Unseen Rajasthan - I think the disaster in Haiti
    just proves to us that we are, after all,
    mortal. I think you are right that we must
    pray to God for the wellness of the world.
    We can use some Divine intervention.

  21. I've lived in earth quake zone from Philippines to CA, and have felt so many quakes now and then, thankfully non-major ones. It is really sad looking at the situation now in Haiti, our hearts and prayers for them.

  22. Hi Carmen, it is so horrific what the people of Haiti are going through. I cannot even begin to imagine all the suffering and pain.

    I am sure that in your location the threat of
    earthquakes must always be on your mind. Take care, and you are wise in educating yourself on the subject. Take care.


  24. That's true Carmen! And I feel it! We are all brothers and sisters! Land and sea and sky can't separate that! It's true!

  25. Terribly sad, first of all for the earthquake, but also for the extreme poverty Haitians have to face every day. Honestly, I can't understand how it is possible that still in 2010 there can be so poor people in the world. Aren't we all sharing the same planet?