My experience during the 7.1 magnitude earthquake

Several people from the Lower 48 have graciously checked in on me after Sunday morning’s 7.1 magnitude earthquake. I decided to blog my experience, because it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime event. Hopefully. 
Many people know that I’ve been working graveyard shift for the past few weeks, which means I work from 11:30 pm to 7:30 am, meaning I was wide awake at the time. I work at a treatment center for kids. During my work shift, part of my job is doing 15 minute safety checks on the kids while they’re sleeping. It sounds weird, and it is. 

Anyway, I was heading upstairs to do my rounds and check on the kiddos when I felt a short shake, maybe a second or two. I stopped mid-step and thought “whoa, that was a big one”. Earthquakes in Alaska aren’t uncommon, but usually I find out about them after-the-fact, and almost never notice them. I figured this one must have been a biggun for me to even feel it.

Figuring it was over, I waited a beat and then that’s when all hell broke lose. The house started shaking. Violently. This house, mind you, has seen better years and tends to creak when its foundation isn’t being jostled like a ShakeWeight in the mighty Hand of God. So you can only imagine. I was halfway up the stairs at this point, when one of my girls opened her door. She had a blank look on her face, until she looked directly at me and let out a terrified scream. Which was exactly how I felt. 

Wracking my brain for all of my disaster preparedness training, I managed to stay surprisingly calm. I told her “it’s okay, it’s okay, just get under a door frame.” She RAN down the stairs, and sat at my feet under the door frame I was using. Which was not exactly what I meant, but it seemed to calm her down, as if the house was going down, her proximity to an adult would keep her safer. 

While this is happening, all of my kids come out of their rooms in blurry-eyed panic mode. If you’ve ever been in a dangerous situation and you’re anything like me, you frantically look for an adult. But I was the adultiest person there. Which is great because, like I said, I’ve had a lot of training in case of emergency.Unfortunately in the moment, the only thing I could think was Oh my God we’re going to die, our lives are over, should we be under a door frame? Should I move the kids to a… Table? No, those collapse. Next to a table? WHY DO THEY KEEP CHANGING THEIR EARTHQUAKE SAFETY INFORMATION? I hope these door frames are standing when this building collapses, which is absolutely happening right now.

Like a pro, though, I made light conversation with the kids while this was all happening. I tried to make silly jokes and reassure them by maintaining chatter over the sounds of the house playing a terrifying game of Jenga around us. The quake went on for several minutes, which is one billion hours in Earthquake Time. And it was truly the weirdest sensation. It felt like the solid ground had turned liquid, what I imagine standing on a surfboard feels like. It’s only a guess though, as I would never get on a surfboard because I DON’T LIKE THE GROUND BELOW ME TO MOVE. 

After the shaking stopped and I had aged twenty years, I felt like my whole body was vibrating. Like my soul had been shaking. I sent the girls back to bed, but, like everyone else in Alaska, they were too freaked out to sleep so we sat up for a bit, talking about earthquakes, earthquake safety, and googling how far their homes were from the epicenter of the quake, to calm their fears about tsunamis hitting their villages. 

It was really, really scary, but in hindsight was pretty cool. On an unrelated note, anyone looking for a roommate somewhere that earthquakes don’t occur? Asking for a friend. 


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