Stirring the pot, raising hell and rearing children in the Bay Area

I Feel The Earth Move…

Posted on Jan 14, 2010 in Family, Friends, Rants and Raves |

I Feel The Earth Move…

…under my feet. I feel the sky tumbling down. I feel my heart start to tremble; whenever you’re around.”
The lyrics to Carol King’s song keeps going through my head. I’ve been singing it for two days while the horrible disaster in Haiti unfolds before my very finger tips across the web. I laughed out-loud at a still image of a woman in her bra and underwear carrying her child through the rubble — “D’oh!,” I said audibly. And last night I watched hours of CNN’s earthquake coverage not for the story or for the massiveness of it all, but because I couldn’t stop looking at how hot Anderson Cooper looked in his ragged in-the-trenches garb. Really, honestly, what the hell is wrong with me?

I suppose coping mechanisms for disaster happen all the time. As the aid flies in toward the complete devastation zone, I think about the survivors more than I think of the dead. Not the ones that might survive or that we’ll see plucked from the rubble, but the ones who survived just fine. I have lived in California most of my life, where earthquakes are common and I’ve survived just fine but not without being shaken to my core with fear. On January 17, 1994 at 4:31 a.m., my world rattled when the Northridge quake hit my community with an angry fervor.

The mattress on my bed slid off the frame as the picture above my bed crashed onto my back. I tried to scramble out of my apartment while the seemingly endless jerking motion pushed me into the wall.  The contents of my apartment were literally flying across the room. I climbed over the toppled heaps on my floor and made it to my front door. From there I could tell the power was out and a smell of sweet gas in the air. I ran down the hall toward the emergency exit, not even noticing the cuts on my feet. Before making it to the stairs, the earth shook so severely that I was knocked into a doorway of another apartment. There I found a dozen or so Vietnamese students I’d never met, huddling in the door jams, crying and shaking. We all held each other in the deepest dark I’ve ever known. I will never forget the smell. Moments later, we held hands as we tried to get down the fire escape. The stairs had separated from the building. Together we made our way down the damaged exit and ran to an open parking lot with hundreds of other apartment dwellers. I looked around in complete shock and fear  and then, started uncontrollably laughing. Everyone was in their underwear! For some reason, this struck me as hilarious! Coping mechanisms, like I said before, are your brain’s way of not simply dying of fear.

In the end, my apartment was orange tagged. Most of my stuff was gone, but really, I didn’t have much anyway. And the clothes I did get out of my apartment were donated, since I couldn’t get the smell of gas out of the fabric. It made me gag. For years — literally years — I woke up at 4:31 a.m.

What will the survivors be like after the dust settles in Haiti?  How long will they wake at 6:21 a.m. with the deepest fear? Will the smells change the way they breathe forever? What is the life ahead for them? I simply got a new apartment and decked it out with new things. What if there was nowhere to go? What if I couldn’t get rid of my soiled clothes because those were the only ones I had left. During the Northridge quake, we rationed food and water. Some people were selling batteries, bread and milk at a 500-percent markup; others were standing in the street handing out the items for free. There are good and bad people everywhere. Just like Haiti, the dregs and heroes of society will rise during crisis.

There is so much that Haiti will need. There are so many places to give, so many resourcessocial media communities and volunteer groups that will help. I feel so hopeless for them all. Not surprisingly, I woke at 4:31 a.m. this morning. For now, all I can offer is the empathy I have for the survivors’ fear, for the rattling noise ringing in their ears.