My Mom, My Wife, and Earthquakes

June 18, 2014 — Leave a comment

My very small, frail 88-year old mother, Jeanne, was awakened early this morning by a very scary 4.1 magnitude earthquake near her home in Edmond, Oklahoma.

When I asked her what she did during the earthquake she said,

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With my mom in Edmond, Oklahoma

“I didn’t even get up. I just suddenly woke up feeling the floor moving underneath me, watching the pictures on the wall move around me, hearing loud creaks from the attic, and praying so loud I’m surprised you didn’t hear me all the way down there in Orlando!”

I immediately went online to learn that Edmond (a suburb of Oklahoma City) actually had 9 earthquakes today in lesser magnitudes (2.7, etc.), and 24 earthquakes in the last week.

When I told my wife, Becky, about my mom’s experience, it immediately reminded her of far more frightening images she still vividly remembers from March of 1964 when her family lived in Alaska and survived the second largest recorded earthquake in history (9.2). (The largest recorded earthquake to date took place in Chile in 1960 (9.5).)

When I asked Becky what she did during that earthquake, she said,

Becky at 16

Becky at 16

“I still remember it all very vividly. It was around 5pm and we were on Easter vacation from school. It was Good Friday. And my dad had just come home early from work. I was with my younger sister and brother downstairs in our basement playroom when it started. Everything just suddenly started violently shaking.

At first I thought we were being bombed by Russia because at school we regularly had bomb drills. The next thing I remember was seeing my dad at the top of the stairs yelling at us to come up the stairs as fast as we could. But we couldn’t. The stairs were moving back and forth and cracking. Then all kinds of canned foods and groceries started falling out of the pantry on to the moving stairs.

I can still remember trying to climb up the stairs that were covered with broken glass, baby food, and cooking oil. My younger sister made it up the stairs first. Then I made it up. But my little brother wasn’t strong enough to climb up the stairs.

Then I remember watching my dad, knowing that the entire basement could collapse on my little brother at any time, go down the stairs, pick him up, and carry him all the way back up.Alaska Earthquake

The next thing I remember seeing was my mom lying on the floor in the kitchen on top of my youngest sister, a toddler, protecting her from everything that was falling out of the kitchen cabinets. They were both cut by the broken glass and bleeding. My dad then helped all of us get out of the front door.

After the earthquake stopped we all just sat in the car for a long time. Once my dad knew we were safe, he went immediately to the hospital (he is a physician) to help care for all the injured people. Because of the aftershocks, for the next several days we all had to sleep on the floor of the living room so we could quickly go out the front door when the aftershocks came.

I remember the next day going into downtown Anchorage and seeing entire buildings sunken down into the ground and huge, open crevices in the streets.

I also remember going to church on that Easter Sunday weekend after the earthquake on Good Friday. We couldn’t worship in the sanctuary because of all the damage to it. So we had to go to another large room in the church building to worship.

There were more people at church that Sunday than I’d ever seen there before. And I don’t think it was just because it was Easter Sunday (she just smiled here).”

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

-Psalm 46