Thursday, August 23, 2012

It's Disasteversary Day

I almost said "Happy Disasteversary," but that just sounds wrong. There's not really much happy about a disasteversary. Especially a double.

August 23 is a day filled with interesting memories for me. Twenty years ago today, I was battening down the hatches for Hurricane Andrew. One year ago today, I thought my house was sliding down the hill when the DC earthquake scared the bejeebers out of me.

I survived the hurricane, though most everything I owned before I was 19 did not. So much of my childhood disappeared overnight. Photos, toys, and clothes I would have passed on to my own daughter washed away in the storm surge or were irreparably damaged by the layer of mildew that grows over everything after it's been soaked in seawater for days on end. And that doesn't even describe the horror of living through the storm itself. A tornado spawned by the storm took out nearly every tree in our yard. The wind howled all night, broke the window in my mom's car, and then the air pressure made the horn honk in a solid blast until the battery died. It took hours. Can you say spooky? We had no power for nine days afterward. And we were a good thirty miles north of Homestead, where the worst of the storm hit and leveled entire communities. My mom's house wasn't so lucky.

Twenty years later I still relive bits of that day like it was yesterday. I wouldn't wish that kind of thing on anyone. It weirds me out that there's a "hurricane booth" at our local mall where you pay a few dollars, step inside, and experience hurricane force winds for a minute or two. I have no desire to ever experience it again. Enough said.

Exactly one year ago today, the earth moved. I'd experienced a mild earthquake before, but that was in Los Angeles, where you kind of expect earthquakes. I live 35 miles from Washington DC. We don't get earthquakes here. Except that one.

I was sitting out on the back porch with my laptop, writing. Lulu was at a friend's house. Helper Monkey had just gone to bed. At first, I thought they were blasting somewhere nearby. They were building a house down the street from me, and several times they had to blast through the bedrock in order to pour concrete for the foundation. But the shaking didn't stop, it got worse. My second thought was that my house had finally broken loose from the aforementioned bedrock and was sliding down the hill toward the lake. It felt like the ground had turned to jello, and wave after wave pulsed through the deck below me. I was too freaked out to stand up.

When the shaking stopped, I ran downstairs to ask Helper Monkey if he felt it, too. My third thought was that I was having some sort of psychotic break, and I'd hallucinated the whole event. He'd been drifting off to sleep, and his first thought was that I was moving the bed. When I called to make sure everything was okay at her friend's house, I learned that Lulu missed the whole thing. She was in her friend's swimming pool and they thought the waves were of their own making.

We were lucky. We escaped without any real damage. They are still repairing buildings downtown, though. The National Cathedral won't be fully fixed for at least 10 years. The Washington Monument is still not fully stabilized. Union Station still has netting up to protect passengers from falling things.

So that's what I'm thinking about today. And I'll kindly ask that if any further disasters are planned for wherever I happen to be living either now or in the future, could you kindly pick another date? This one is already full.


  1. That's scary. We don't have those things here, and I love that about this area. Nothing poisonous, no earthquakes, no hurricanes. Although we used to get like one tornado every ten years, but it would always take out a farmer's granary and do like $1k in damage haha.

    1. Yes, that's why I moved to the DC area. The worst thing we're supposed to get here is snow. Yeah.

      Fun aside: At the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, they have an electronic map of Earthquakes over the last hundred years all around the world. It progresses month by month, with a little blip appearing on the screen for every earthquake and volcano. in the 100 years the map covers, there is ONE blip within 500 miles of DC.

      Fun aside, this is a youtube link to someone's video of the exhibit, including the bizarro "music" that accompanies the blips. :)

  2. I have never lived through anything like that, which is one of the benefits of living in Britain. Extreme weather is very rare, and even then it's nowhere near as bad as what you've seen.

    1. Considering these are the only two extremes of weather I've really had to live through (other than a few blizzards), it's not that bad. I just thought it was weird that both of these events were on the same day.


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