“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear,
and the oldest and strongest kind of fear
is fear of the unknown.”
- H. P. Lovecraft
I’m scared of earthquakes. Born and raised in California, you’d think I’d be used to them by now. But I’m not. They terrify me. When I was teaching, I was doubly afraid. Afraid of earthquakes, and afraid that one might happen during the school day and I’d become too unglued to properly take care of my students. (I’d like to hope that adrenaline would have kicked in, and I would have been able to squash my own fears, to keep my students as safe and calm as possible). Thankfully, I never had to find out.
I don’t like earthquakes for so many reasons. They’re random. Happening whenever they choose, day or night. (The 1994 Northridge quake occurred at about 4:30 in the morning). They give no warning. Other potential natural disasters are considerate enough to put themselves on radar or satellite images. Hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons -- all have warnings. They’re omnipotent. There’s nothing you can do to try to fight an earthquake. There’s a fire? You grab some water; you try to put it out. Tornado coming? You seek safety in a proper shelter. But with an earthquake, there’s nothing to do but wait it out.
When the Northridge quake hit, I was a high school student. My sister and I stood in our doorway as my parents stood in theirs. We talked to each other, my parents reassuring us that we’d be okay, and it would stop shaking soon. All I could think of was, “This is it. This is the big one they talk about. I’m not going to be able to handle it.” So I didn’t. I fainted. Not my most dignified moment, but certainly one of my most honest ones.
My dad, an employee of the phone company, was required to go into work that day. I, however, spent the rest of the day sitting on a pillow, covering myself with a blanket, as I sought safety in the doorway between our dining room and living room. I kept a flashlight and a teddy bear nearby. I was absolutely petrified. And we were lucky. Our house was in tact. Our damage involved some broken items, including a fallen television set.
My son’s first earthquake happened a few months after he was born. At the time, we were transitioning his day-time care to the woman who would be his nanny when I returned to my classroom in the fall. She was on the couch, giving Ryan a bottle, I was in the kitchen. The shaking started. She calmly got up from the couch, away from my large bookcase, stood in the middle of our living room, cradling my son, feeding him his bottle. Ryan never stirred. Just kept right along drinking. I, on the other hand, was petrified at what could have been and oh-so-thankful that this kind, gentle woman I was entrusting my son’s care to would also be calm and collected during an earthquake (unlike me).
Hopefully, my son hasn’t inherited my fear. (I haven’t shared my terror with him). We talk, matter-of-factly, about what to do in the event of an earthquake. He knows how to drop, cover, and hold. We have emergency backpacks in our home and car.
Calm, cool, and collected? When it comes to earthquakes, I am not. Fearful, frazzled, and frightened? Yep, that’s me.