Tag Archives: Earthquakes

Tip #39: Stop-Drop-Roll (or something like that)

August 18, 1999

Oh. My. God! Yesterday we had an earthquake. I have never experienced anything so scary. I was sitting on my bed and the whole house started to shake and the windows began to rattle! I instantly knew that we were having an earthquake. I was like “Oh god, we’re going to die! This is the end of the world! This is the biggie! Oh! I’m not ready to die!” I didn’t say that out loud, but I said it in my head. I was in my room by myself close to the window hiding under my feather blanket! DUH! I should have run to a doorway. I have never experienced anything like that in my life. I mean, the ground was shaking! Sure I was here during the 1989 earthquake, but I was only four and didn’t understand that the earthquake could have taken everything, all priceless objects, my house, and my life. But now I understand earthquakes and how much damage they can cause. I was scared silly! I mean, the earth was moving. The quake wasn’t big, only 5.0 and lasted only 10 seconds. The only thing that fell down were all 18 of my Pez dispensers and now I can’t find my Minnie Mouse one. But that’s better than my house falling over. WAY better. Oh! It was soooo scary! I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared. I was sure I was going to DIE. There was an earthquake in Istanbul just like ten hours before. But it was worse with 7.4 magnitude and lasted 30 seconds. Thousands are dead and thousands are missing. 😦 P.S. I found my Minnie Mouse Pez!

Dear Me,

Yes, that was stupid of you just to stay in place during the earthquake. As we learned in school, we need to take cover under something—a doorway, a desk, a kitchen table; basically anything except for a feather blanket. But you know what? I would do the same thing now. You still haven’t learned.

Because despite what people may think of us Californians, we are NOT accustomed to earthquakes. It’s almost a bragging right for native Californians when they talk to their friends who transplanted from another part of the country. “Oh sure… earthquakes. Whatevs; we get them all the time. I barely stop what I’m doing when one happens.” Well, to all you “native Californians,” I’m calling bullshit on your “hardcore” asses. I moved here when I was one year old (aka, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t live here; aka, I too am a native) and I freak-the-freak out when I feel an earthquake, as documented above in August 1999.

My college roommate and I safeguarded our Pez dispenser collection with cardboard and tape so that they would endure an earthquake

My college roommate and I safeguarded our Pez dispenser collection with cardboard and tape so that they would endure an earthquake

For the record, we do NOT get them all of the time. Sure, tiny baby ones are frequent, but we don’t even feel those. I think I’ve probably felt no more than 10 earthquakes in the almost 30 years I’ve lived in the Bay Area, and only three of them were noteworthy. One of those being the aforementioned earthquake and one being the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 when I was four—losing our signal during Sesame Street had a huge impact on me. Unlike me, my mom (also a California native) had the sense to grab her precious daughter and brace us under a door frame. I’m still impressed with her ninja reflexes, even to this day.

I think about the next Big One almost daily. I live in fear that my house will slide down the canyon that it rests upon. Or that I’ll be stuck at work when it hits because BART (our public transportation system) will be shut down. And then I’ll probably have to work forever. Or that I’ll actually be commuting IN the Transbay Tube, which is the tunnel that goes UNDER the Bay into San Francisco. See? Isn’t that a frightening thought? To be stuck in a 4-mile-long, 40-year-old tunnel submerged 130 feet below sea level? NO THANK YOU!

Whatever the case, I know one thing for certain: just like when I was 14, I am NOT used to earthquakes. And I’m NOT prepared. Hopefully I’ll have better sense than to not just sit there in paralyzing fear. But I’ll probably choke up and do something completely wrong like stop-drop-and-roll instead. The best I can do is hope that I’ll roll right into a doorway or under a table. Wish me luck!