Tuesday afternoon, August 23rd, while outside gardening with my children, we experienced an earthquake. Just typing this makes me feel alternatingly giddy and faltering (pun sort of intended). I only remember ever feeling one other earthquake in my life, and it was a teeny tiny one, as a teenager, and relatively unmemorable – nothing more than a bit of a shimmy. But Tuesday was so much more. And, as exciting as it was – living history! – it left me feeling vulnerable, all the same.
We had been out back, sweeping off the porch after trimming back our tomato plants and putting down some soil on our pumpkin patch, taking advantage of the coolness of the afternoon shade to start preparations for the Fall. Adam was inside, working from home (what a lucky thing, we’d both said, later). I began to hear our wind chime ringing, which, in and of itself, wasn’t a big deal, and my mind didn’t pay much attention – it was a normal sound for the back porch. Only, in retrospect (moments later, retrospect, that is, as little things began to fall into place as being connected and part of a bigger picture of EARTHQUAKE), I realized that there was no wind. That’s when we started to hear a clicking sound, all around… sort of like hail, only, there was no hail. I was looking around, up, down, trying to determine the source of the sound – it was like a crackling or snapping and it seemed to be coming from everywhere – when my husband came to the back door, shouting: "Did you feel that? Was that an earthquake?"
The force of that word brought the clicking sounds and the ghostly ringing (now loudly jangling) into sharp focus: the clicking was not hail, but rather the house shifting and creaking, along with bits of things falling from the trees (we're backed right up to the woods), the windchime was chiming because the entire building, from which the windchime was hanging, was moving. Just as I took a step towards the back door, I felt a dropping in my stomach, like the sensation of being on a boat in rough waters, or in a car, going too quickly over a dip in the road. I was suddenly dizzy, disoriented, and just then – a good bit scared. We gathered the children and moved quickly inside. Then, as the woman-of-the-21st century I am, instead of rushing upstairs and out front as my husband and children did, I decided to hop on to Twitter, and tweeted:
The moment my feed refreshed, my suspicions were more than validated. Nearly every other tweet in my stream mentioned an earthquake! It was surreal. From as far south as South Carolina to as far North as Canada, people had felt the earth move! Interestingly, @Twitter had this to say, later in the day (making me feel a bit better for rushing so quickly to my computer):
I grabbed my phone and stepped out front where I was greeted by the sight of the largest number of neighbors I’ve seen since moving here five years ago. Once we determined that yes, we all “did feel that”, and weren’t feeling it any longer, we ventured back inside to turn on the news. Already every local station had reporters on the street in Philly talking to folks who’d been evacuated from their buildings, and the national news stations were reporting from DC. Within minutes we knew the epicenter, and the magnitude of the quake: 5.9, near Mineral, Virginia.
In spite of knowing – both in numbers, and in experience – that the quake was relatively minor, and no one was injured, and that it was over… we stayed glued to the set (and me to my iPhone) for the next half hour or so; answering the kids’ questions, and maybe, in the back of our minds, waiting for the other shoe to drop. It felt eerily reminiscent of 9-11. I did feel a bit dizzy about a half hour or so later, as did the rest of my family. Aftershocks, or, sympathetic vertigo of sorts.
In the grand scheme of things, this earthquake was a brief moment in time. Tuesday afternoon is nearly two days past, and #earthquake is no longer trending. The news of the world has moved on to another event. We weren’t hurt, nothing near us was damaged, and the rest of our day proceeded relatively uneventfully. My children experienced their first earthquake, and I experienced a feeling of helplessness and insignificance and awe, moved as I was by my minisculeness; pushing headlong through time, magnetized to the unstable crust of our great earth, rocketing through our infinite universe. I’m humbled, and grateful that we were able to experience a bit of the wonder of the earth without any injury. I’m amazed by the technology that allows us all to be so far from one another, yet so connected. I’m sleeping well, but maybe I checked on my children just a few more times than usual Tuesday night.
Did you experience Tuesday’s earthquake? I’d love to hear your experience. (by the way, you can report your experience, here. I did!)