Thursday, October 20, 2011


At 2:40 p.m. today I was sitting on the couch, typing up a case study for work, just minding my own business, not bothering anyone. Dakota was sitting on the top of the couch, behind my head, purring like she does. At 2:41 p.m. we both had the bejeezus scared out of us when the house started making a slight rumbling noise.

Is that a truck passing by, I thought. When you live in a nearly 100 year old house, there are a lot of things that can make it creak & moan, so it's not uncommon for a large truck to roll down our street and make our house shift.

And then it hit.

My house lurched to the left, then the right, then the left again. On the first lurch Dakota was over my head running to the back of the house. I was right behind her. By the time I got to the kitchen doorway there was one more loud BOOM and then silence and stillness. 

If you had asked me at that moment how big the earthquake was I would have said it was easily over 5.0. I lived in LA for both the Whittier and Northridge earthquakes and it easily felt as bad as Whittier (we lived a couple of towns over from the epicenter for that one). The Whittier quake is why I'm so terrified of quakes today  That shit is scary. And as we all know, the big one is coming any day now.

I stood in the doorway trying to calm myself. I walked outside to see that most of my neighbors that are at home during the day were also outside. The mailman was arriving at my house just that instant. I reached out to take the mail, my hands still shaking.

Have I mentioned I'm terrified of earthquakes? The things I'm most afraid of in life are (in this order) airplane crashes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. 

I called Alan in San Francisco and he said he hadn't even felt it. He was at lunch and his co-worker might have felt it. My shaky voice, near tears, was the confirmation for them. 

My former co-workers in the Financial District reported the office shook and some people screamed but others handled it like pros. 

Not me. 

I was still shaking twenty minutes later when Alan called me back.

During that time I learned that it was only a 3.9. You could have fooled me. We've had several 3.9 quakes since moving into this house and our house has NEVER sounded like that during an earthquake. The noise was terrifying. I thought we were going to come off our foundation or the chimneys were going to come down on me. It sounded like something out of a horror movie. Houses shouldn't make those noises unless they're possessed by the devil. 

It turns out the quake was about 1.75 miles from my house on the Berkeley campus. Wow. News reports say that it was only six miles deep as well. That might explain why here in our neighborhood it felt like the end of the world while just across the Bay it was barely a blip on people's radar.

I walked around the house to check for damage. All of the frames in my office and on our gallery wall are askew, and one of the frames that was leaning against the wall in my office fell down, knocking the stuff that was in front of it to the floor. Some stuff jumped off the bathroom shelf into the toilet (fun!), but otherwise everything looked okay.