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Wednesday, June 23, 2010


The girl was lying on the couch, tired from her early morning wake up and a busy morning at preschool. Robert Munsch stories were playing on the computer. I figured it was safe to sneak upstairs and use the bathroom without her hollering for me at the top of her lungs. As she sometimes likes to do when I am out of her sight.

Almost at the bottom of the staircase, I stopped when I heard a rumble. A deep rumble. I lifted up my head to look out the window of the front door. I expected to see the biggest semi truck ever in existence driving down my small one way street. Instead, I felt the ground begin to shake. It didn't stop.

It took me longer then you might expect to realize that what I was feeling was an earthquake. I had never experienced an earthquake before. I would rather not experience it again.

As the floor shook beneath my feet and the walls seem to move and bend in front of my eyes, I ran quickly to the back of the house and grabbed the girl up in my arms. What's happening she asked. It's an earthquake I said, hearing the panic in my voice. With her arms wrapped around my neck we sprinted up the stairs. At the landing I could finally hear the boy's cries over the sounds of the earth moving.

The earthquake had woken him up from his nap and he now sat upright in his bed. His arms reached for me and mine reached for him. Wrapped around me I carried him and his sister back down the stairs. For a moment I didn't know what to do with them. Do we hide in the basement? No, I think that is for a tornado. Under a table? Maybe. Then all I wanted, and I wanted it intensely, was to be out of the house. With them.

I ran out the door in my bare feet with the children clutched to me. And then I didn't know what to do next.

From my porch I saw a neighbor. I felt myself breath for the first time. Knowing that we weren't alone. That we were okay. But I kept shaking. The ground finally stopped moving but I kept shaking for another ten minutes. Scared about what could have, even if it didn't, happen.

I fretted and fluttered around the kids as they sat beside me on the porch stairs before deciding to move them to the park. Wide open spaces I thought, that will be safer if more is coming.

Nothing more did come. Finally the cell phone picked up reception and I spoke to the husband at work. Life went on as normal around me. The kids chased their friends, the guys played basketball on the court, cyclists passed by. Inside I still shook.


  1. I know. We live on the eleventh floor. Forget 'Shit'. My daughter has certainly now learned the phrase 'Holy fuck! Holy fuck! Holy fuck!'. (No, wait, there were no exclamation marks. It was just 'Holy fuck' on repeat.) At twenty months, she doesn't yet speak, but she did spend much of the rest of the day grabbing the furniture and shaking it.

    The water in the turtle tank was lurching from left to right. Five of six cats lashed across the room. Books, a paper weight, sunscreen, odds and ends fell from the shelves in the bedroom.

    I couldn't remember: Where is one supposed to go? I, too, considered the space under the dining table. But a concrete ceiling? I went to the front closet for some reason until I saw the shelves sliding along the brackets and things falling off. Doorways, it turns out, are the things. I guess I was close. Close-ish.

    After the fact, when everyone was gathered in the hall, what made me laugh was that everyone's immediate question was, 'Did you feel that?'

  2. I have lived through many small earthquakes, but I've only felt one. And I didn't know what it was at the time. I thought it was someone down the hall at work rolling a large cart or something like that. It's really not obvious, at least to me. But if it were much bigger, that might change.

  3. Wonderful description, glad it was just a small one x

  4. my insides shook for a good 30 minutes afterwards. it felt like my brain was addled. i couldn't get in touch with the babysitter because power was out, and well with cordless phones now, it's impossible. the hubby called me from school. i was greatful. i was very happy to see the jellybean at 5pm, and a little more than annoyed with the hubby for picking him up late!

  5. We're further from the epicenter, just north of Toronto, but we felt it, too. I was in the basement working, and heard the vents rattling. I turned off my audiobook and went into the furnace room to see if I could see what was rattling. I actually thought the dog was having a REALLY good scratch upstairs. It lasted a good 45 seconds and was over.

    I'm not sure if I would have felt it more if I were on an upper floor of the house. I'm glad it wasn't worse - here, or there!

  6. isn't it funny how now before we even register the source of the danger or even fully know what is going on, we are already on our feet heading towards our children. having that kind of autopilot is comforting.

  7. What struck me the most is how different a reaction I had with kids in my care than I would have on my own. I know if I had been alone I would have been amused and curious. With kids with me (and one upstairs, not physically in my arms) I freaked out! I too shook for a VERY long time afterwards. Having felt several earthquakes in my life (though none quite that strong) I recognized it fairly quickly at least.

  8. I felt it here in Markham, but I'm sure it was a whole lot stronger in Ottawa. What surprised me was how long it lasted. It just kept shaking and shaking and shaking. And then, even after it stopped I still imagined I could feel things moving.

    I definitely think I would have reacted differently if I'd had the kids with me. As it was, I knew it was hitting during naptime at the daycare so I wasn't too concerned. Sure enough, both kids slept through the whole thing.

  9. I experienced (and wrote about) the earthquake, too. It really freaked me out and I hope I never have to experience one again!

  10. I was in the middle of feeding baby lunch. It took me a second too to figure out what was actually happening. Then I must have looked pretty startled, because baby started to laugh - which I figure was a pretty good reaction all things considered. I wondered if our hutch with our glasswear was going to fall over, or spill any out - but it just rattled - which I think she found kinda interesting, and I found pretty unnerving.

  11. Baby had just gone down for a nap...gently complaining about it, and the big one was on his way, getting ready for a story. As the house shook I thought, Wow what is that garbage truck out the front doing? Then it all became clear... the earth is shaking! And I said it out loud as I clutched the front window, " This is an earthquake!" The big one (aged 2and9months) casually replies "No Mummy, it's just the garbage truck!" Before the shaking ended, the little one stopped complaining and settled in for a long, restful sleep. Maybe that's what it takes to get him off to dreamland.

  12. I agree about the commenter who said that we react differently when we are by ourselves compared to how we react with our kids. I was a bit of a basketcase (which dh didn't appreciate but whateves) too, but I felt better having both kids attached to me after it happened.