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(earthquake) Sunday

Posted by willkay on April 4, 2010


It’s Sunday afternoon, Easter Sunday. We’ve finished watching “The Right Stuff” and have just started to watch “Three Kings”. The sun is shining outside, there isn’t a cloud in the sky. The window starts to rattle. It’s been rattling most of the afternoon. It isn’t particularly tight in its frame, and the slightest gust makes it rattle. Except, it normally rattles once/twice and then settles. Now it is is rattling constantly.

Earthquake! – says maria. Can you feel it?

This is a point of contention between us. I have never felt an earthquake since moving to Mexico, she tells me there have been 3/4. I come back with “it was just a lorry outside”, that is what made the hangers move in the wardrobe.

Yes – I say.

And I can. Forget the rattle of the window, you can see the floor rolling. No, seriously the floor rolls. It undulates. You know how you see those films of earthquakes where they show you solid concrete rippling – it does.

We’re going out – she says.

I don’t argue, I don’t panic. I do think of picking up the laptop. I think of grabbing the camera. I stop myself. I’ve been in one of these situations before, not an earthquake, a fire. That time I did the same, just got up and walked out. Picked up nothing, didn’t run, didn’t panic, just left the building. All those years of practice at school for fire drill set me in good stead. Earthquake drill is pretty much the same – except in school they like to get you to climb under your desk for ten seconds – get out the building, get as far away as possible from the building.

We head towards the front door. The ground is rolling and I feel sick, seasick. I don’t (or never have) suffered from seasickness (and yes, I have spent time on ships/boats/dinghies) but this time I feel it. Nothing really matches up with anything. By that I mean, the floor is moving, you are moving, you can see the walls moving, the floor moving, but it makes no sense to your brain. I felt sick in the pit of my stomach.

maria grabbed the front door keys, the front door is locked, three locks. I’ve got no shoes on, she’s got no shoes on, at least we are not in our pyjamas! This is unusual for a Sunday afternoon but we were planning on Skyping later in the day, so clothes on. maria gets the three locks done and then fails to open the door. It is only a second, but in that second the thought flashes through my mind that the door is stuck. It isn’t. We leave the flat.

Opposite us the door opens at the same time and the neighbour steps out. The three of us make it down the stairs to the ground, the people from the downstairs flat are already out. The earthquake is still going on. I’ve heard that earthquakes seem to last for ages, but this one is lasting for ages. We move as far away as possible from the building – which means we are now leaning against a wall. The wall is also vibrating, except it isn’t a vibration, it’s an undulating ripple. Stupidly, this wall is the main wall of the house next door. In trying to get away from our flat, we have pushed ourselves up to another building. But we don’t have keys to get out the gate and into the street.

maria pushes herself off the wall and stands, looking out into the street. You can see everything rippling. It’s weird. Like everything is being refocused through a camera lens, from blurry to focused and then back out.

The kids – she says.

And then she sets off back up the stairs for the phone. The earthquake is still going on – or is it? It is hard to tell. If you’ve ever been at sea or ice/roller skated for some time, you know how your legs are still wobbly when you walk normally on land? It’s a bit like that. I’m still wobbly and I can’t tell if it is still the earthquake or it is me. I don’t say anything to maria, there is no point. We’d just argue and she’d be stood on the stairs which would be daft. The neighbour starts to question what she is doing, but she moves so quickly (maria) that she is in the house and back out, dialing, within seconds.

The earthquake finishes. I don’t know what to do now. I’ve heard of aftershocks and, honestly, I’m scared. Really scared. Earthquakes in Haiti, earthquakes in Chile, all in the last couple of months have made me aware. Now, obviously the building I’m about to enter hasn’t fallen down but…But it makes no sense that it is still standing. There were ripples running through the walls seconds ago. This isn’t a cotton blanket that you have just flicked, this is a solid, concrete wall. How does it not crack? How does it not have some structural weakness? It makes no sense.

The kids are fine. Everyone is fine. It was a 6.9 earthquake that lasted nearly a minute. The good news is that is was a rolling earthquake, not a “jump around, jump around, jump up and jump down” type earthquake. Back in the flat Twitter is going crazy. Everyone felt it, everyone is fine. maria switches from phoning her kids to phoning her mum.

You heard the window? ‘Cos you’re useless at knowing there’s an earthquake, use that as a guide – she says.

Four minutes later the window rattles again and the door starts to wobble. It’s an aftershock. I’m actually feeling sicker. Really sick in my stomach. I think it is because I am thinking. Up until now I’ve always known that there could be an earthquake, just didn’t treat it seriously. Now it is serious.

I’m wildly checking internet sites. CNN tell me that people in Los Angeles had their chandeliers shaken. The New York Times tells me that the shock could be felt in Los Angeles. I’m sort of getting annoyed. Who cares about Los Angeles? It was here. Here in Baja. !50km southeast of Tijuana. And then the next aftershock hits. This one is a beast. 5.4 on the Richter scale. For the seven seconds it lasts I am really scared. This one seems to last forever, much longer than the real thing because now, now I’ve done the thinking. Now I know that it can go wrong. Now I am looking forward to collapsed buildings, digging people out of wreckage, missing the result of tomorrow’s footy match (Sheffield United v Newcastle), hell, missing the result of Chivas v America tonight…and not caring. Except. Except. It’s over. Over before maria (who always knows when there is an earthquake) notices. She’s still on the phone with her mum! I tell her.

We’ll sleep in our clothes tonight – she says.

I put on a pair of shoes. I’ve been walking around in socks all this time. I check my phone, it’s fully charged, and put it in my pocket. I get my wallet and put that in my pocket as well. I check that the front door is unlocked. I open a beer. I feel a bit sick, I need something to settle my stomach.

No longer an earthquake virgin.

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17 Responses to “(earthquake) Sunday”

  1. scarlatte said

    I felt the earthquake too. I was in the yard when it happened and it was the first time I have felt it take a lot of time. 😦

  2. Our Grandmother lives in El Centro – she just called to relay her experience with the earthquake. Glad to hear you had a relatively uneventful experience yourself. Earthquakes are exciting and frightening at the same time – thanks for sharing your thoughts. Stay safe!

  3. Ana Karen said

    Mister Kay it was terrible. I was in my candy store and some candy started to shake. I was very nerveous .

  4. Ana Karen said

    Mister Kay the news has just said that it was a 7.2. I’m really scared .

    • willkay said

      I agree that the whole thing is scary, Ana Karen. However, you don’t need to be worried. Everything is done now. There will be a couple of aftershocks, but they won’t be as bad. As you learnt in Science lessons, the plate has jumped forward a bit. It will now settle down and everything will be ok for a while.

  5. Ana Karen said

    OK Mister Kay, I will calm down and relax . Thank You.

  6. Being calm when one lives on the 5th floor is completely out of the question. My bedside table fell down, the walls were moving, the chandelier in the living room was swaying…impossible to stay there. So, Monica grabbed Kitty and Bunny one in each arm, I started for the door, very slowly(I just had knee replacement surgery!), both of us in our pijamas, went down the stairs at a snail pace. I told Monica to go down fast, but she, being the loving daughter that she is, did not. When we finally reached the 2nd floor it was over. We just stood there, looking at each other not being able even to talk. The rest of the afternoon was spent in sheer fright and a terrible stomach ache. At 4 am I immediately felt the jolt and told Monica, fortunately it was over in a jiffy.
    I had never, in all my life, gone through an experience like this one. It is VERY scary. Keeping calm is not easy, especially when the walls are moving towards you, things are falling, lamps are swaying like a pendulum…Thank God it is over. Or at least I certainly hope so. Thank God the children were not in school (by the way, school is fine, nothing happened).

  7. Erika said

    I didn’t feel it, I was on the road to Palm Springs (where they felt it too). When I got there everyone was outside on the street. I thought it was some kind of a ‘Carnival’, but when I got there, they told us that they had felt an earthquake.

    Lucky girl.

  8. Ana Karen said

    Mister Kay there was another earthquake today. When I was paying my mom’s insurance, I was standing up straight in the office and I felt that every thing was shaking. And my mom’s car was moving too. I’m still afraid.

    • willkay said

      There will still be aftershocks Ana Karen. In fact, there have been over 100 of them since Sunday. However, these are getting smaller and smaller each time. The earth is settling down. You don’t need to be worried. It’s ok to be afraid, you just don’t need to let it take over everything. This was the biggest earthquake here since 1940. Mathematically, the next big one will be in 2080 – 70 years from now. By then we will all have jet packs!! [If we don’t you can find me and ask for your money back!]

  9. Jose Manuel said

    I’m glad I wasn’t there!!! :/

    • willkay said

      Hurray! You’re still around. How are things going? How are you doing? Great to hear from you.

      • manny786 said

        Hi Mr.Kay, I’m Jose Manuel, I have decided to make a blog of my daily (well, almost) life. Hope you can see it sometime!!! BTW(By The Way) I’m doing great, so is my baay sister.

  10. TERE ROCHIN said

    WILL,CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR BLOG, I HAD NOT READ IT BEFORE, IT IS GREAT HOW YOU KEEP IN TOUCH WITH THE CHILDREN. HAVE YOU SHARED YOUR FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH SCHOOL DRILLS WITH THEM?
    IF HE HASN’T, DON’T FORGET TO ASK.

  11. […] (earthquake) Sunday April 2010 15 comments 5 […]

  12. […] told the story of my first earthquake drill at BAI, way back in 2005 (and I’ve definitely written about going through the last year’s earthquake), so the section in the science book, about earthquakes, fascinated me the first time. Of course, […]

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