Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Of earthquakes and mini-golf

No, I didn't feel the earthquake. If my legs were shaky, it was because Hopstop told me that the fastest way between Playground A (where the kids met up with one friend) and Playground B (where they were slated to play mini-golf with another friend) was to walk. So we walked. It was nice. For the first mile. Even part of the second mile was okay. We were walking along the river, so the scenery was pleasant. 

Somewhere about eight blocks north of our destination we noticed large numbers of business people milling about, rather aimlessly, on the sidewalk. It seemed like an odd time of year for a company picnic. But we went on (since we were late, on account of walking so far) and as we walked we passed lots of people on cell phones, all of whom seemed to use the word earthquake in their conversations. That was odd.

When we finally got to Playground B, our friends said, "Hey, did you hear about the earthquake? They evacuated a whole pile of buildings." Hmmmm. Maybe that's why there was no food at the company picnic. And here I thought the caterer was late!

Tonight Facebook was abuzz with descriptions of which emergency people thought they were experiencing (heart attack, seizure, stroke). There were also wistful confessions from those of us who somehow missed the not-so-big event.

In the midst of the chatter a memory rose to the surface, the memory of the stories I heard after 9/11. Everyone -- everyone -- had a story back then. And we all told our stories over and over, because we were alive to tell them. And each person we told them to was alive, and that was close to a miracle.

It struck me, back then, that people who lived in New York through 9/11 had a huge coping advantage over people in the rest of the country: we heard hundreds of survival stories. And somehow, perhaps, that helped us to process the other stories that were too-close and too-hard to bear.

Today's earthquake added a bit of frisson to an otherwise normal Tuesday. Memorable for the novelty, perhaps, or for the confusion and adrenaline rush.

My guess is that Little Guy will not remember this day as My First Earthquake, but because he got a hole-in-one at mini-golf. He's still a bit stunned, in that way one gets when good fortune arrives without any effort or preparation on your part. In later life (perhaps after decades of failing to get another hole-in-one) he will marvel at how he didn't really grasp the enormity of this stroke of luck.

We never really do grasp the enormity of how fortunate we are, do we?


  1. Glad that you are all okay. I remember a mild earthquake years ago when I was working in a hospital in Detroit. We all felt the building shake and sway and it was frightening. Chicago people claimed they felt this one yesterday but we, in St. Joseph, MI on the other side of Lake Michigan, felt nothing.