The Great Earthquake of 2011


I was in a meeting yesterday afternoon when the woman sitting next to me became very still. “My chair is shaking,” she said. “Do you feel anything?”



We all became still at that point. My knee was resting against the desk in front of me, and I could feel a faint unnatural tremble. Then someone else said, “Look at the plant!” We all turned, and the little potted palm sitting in the corner was trembling like – well, like a leaf.



Then it stopped. The first person hmphed. “That was an earthquake,” she said. “I really believe that was an earthquake.”



Indeed it was. We all spent the rest of the day regaling one another with where-were-you? stories. Also, since I love being the first with news of any kind, I kept saying to people, “So did you feel anything half an hour ago?” and was continually delighted when they said, “Nothing. Why?”



Seriously, as natural disasters go, this was right up there with a light dusting of snow or a half-inch of rainfall. One of my coworkers said her sister in Pittsburgh called her to say that her kitchen cabinets kept opening and closing eerily by themselves. Someone else said she heard the building windows snapping and popping, as if they wanted to bust free from their frames. In the last analysis, though, we all seem to have made it through the experience alive.



(My favorite earthquake memory is from when I was very small – maybe four years old – out in Washington state. My family and I were all sitting in the living room, and suddenly everything in the place began to bounce and leap around; I fell off the couch, landed on the floor, and just kept bouncing as the floor shook. I remember laughing with glee, as I thought it was great fun, until I realized that everyone else in the room was screaming and panicking.)



The best reaction yesterday came from Giovanni, the operator of a document-destruction truck, who came by my office around 2:30. He was short, dark, hair moussed into a faux-Mohawk, funny lively eyes, and kept shaking my hand at the drop of a hat. I was showing him around the building and asked him if he’d felt the earthquake. He became very serious. “No suh!” he said. “When? I love that stuff. I watch the History Channel all the time, you know? And this stuff is history. Was there any damage?”



“Some,” I said. “Not much.”



History,” he repeated solemnly.



History indeed. The earth moved, and we were all there, and we lived to tell the tale.



And tell it over, and over, and over again.



And isn’t that the best kind of history?




About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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