Friday, August 26, 2011
SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED
I get the feeling the universe is trying to tell me something. I just wish to hell I could decipher the message. Run for the hills? Yeah, maybe something like that.
It’s one thing to read about earthquakes in some remote part of the world—Haiti or China or even California. It’s another thing entirely when your own house in seismically somnolent Virginia starts to rock and roll like it did this week. My home in Fredericksburg is about 30 miles from the epicenter of the quake in Mineral, Virginia. At 5.8 on the Richter scale, the tremor was sizable enough to cause an audible rumbling. The house shook, pictures fell off the shelves, the dog began to bark and, well, you saw the news. In the nation’s capital, people rushed into the streets (where the bigger danger was getting run over by a taxi), the White House and the Capitol were evacuated, the Metro slowed to a crawl and general chaos ensued.
Yes, I know, you West Coast folks are laughing your tails off at our reaction. It’s as if God just took a stick and stirred up an anthill to watch the poor things scurry in panic. But, you know, we don’t have earthquakes back here. My daughter, who works at a daycare facility, searched in vain in their Emergency Action Plan for protocol for “earthquakes”. “Nuclear holocaust”, yes, “earthquakes”, no. Same thing for my friends at the local YMCA. Finally someone thought, okay, maybe we should go outside.
For myself, I was in my basement media room watching TV and eating lunch. At first I thought the boys at the Naval Surface Weapons Center some miles away at Dahlgren, Virginia had gotten carried away. We often feel the pounding when they conduct tests. Then I thought, in rapid succession, truck-accident-through-my-door-gas-explosion-oh-my-God-EARTHQUAKE! At that point, my recliner had turned into a vibrating Barcalounger, but the electricity gave nary a flicker, the TV went blithely on and I heard nothing but the rumbling of the ground. About 15 seconds in, the dog barked (so much for animal prediction—maybe they need to be familiar with the pattern first?). About 30 seconds in I thought I should make a move for a doorway or something, but by that time the shaking was tapering off.
When it was over I checked around the house and found a few photos down, one piece of glass that had rested on a windowsill broken. Some of my china had fallen over in the china cabinet, but was miraculously still in one piece. No cracks, no dust, no craziness. I looked outside. No people in the street. Okay, no harm done.
I went to check the news. OH LORDY LORD! IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD! CALL US IF YOU HAVE DAMAGE!! (Yeah, they actually asked the TV audience to spread the panic.) People milling about in the streets of D.C. Millions of dollars of damage (mostly to replace expensive stonework on the National Cathedral). For a minute I thought maybe I should start panicking.
Then I got a grip. Legitimately, some apartments in the D.C. area, some businesses and historic buildings closer to the epicenter did sustain substantial damage, but really, folks. Go to Haiti and see what earthquake damage looks like. This was a very mild quake, exacerbated by the type of soil we have in the East, which shakes like Jell-O for a long distance from the epicenter. This wasn't a release along a major fault, like the New Madrid. (When that went last time--in 1811--the Mississippi flowed backward.) We were lucky. This time.
Now, this hurricane coming up the coast? That’s something to worry about. The last time a big one came through Virginia some homes were without power here in Fredericksburg for two weeks. Trees crashed into roofs and blocked roads, flooding damaged homes and crops, people were killed and injured. We’re battening down the hatches as I write, a state of emergency has already been declared for the eastern part of the state and cities further up the East Coast are girding for Irene, too. Just another economic blow this country doesn’t need in a year that’s already seen too many of them.
So I’ll be holed up this weekend with some candles and bottled water and a stack of books to read while the wind screams and the rain washes over me. I’m just grateful the house is still standing! And as soon as things clear up I may just read the writing on the wall and pack a bag for the distant hills.
Some good news in the midst of all this gloom and doom: Trouble in Mind is a finalist in the Paranormal/SFR/Urban Fantasy category of the 2011 Rebecca contest (Land of Enchantment Romance Authors--New Mexico)! Not only that, but since Laurie has been too busy to mention it, she is also a finalist in the Rebecca contest, in the same category, for her SFR novel Project Pyramid! Of course, the judges will just have to flip a coin to determine a final winner!