On Monday my daughter had her first day back to school and Tuesday was her second. My partner was going to pick her up on Tuesday at dismissal time– a new weird time for dismissal– 3:21 p.m.
We live many miles from the epicenter of Tuesday’s earthquake, but close enough. Our small four-story almost 100-year-old apartment building shook and shook– yes I mean the building shook as I sat at the computer at the very same dining room table at which I am seated as I write now. A beautiful potted plant and the plate it rests on slid to the floor and shattered, and other things shook– but mostly it was that sensation of the building itself shaking that I will never forget. And the sound– the low rumbling sound of the earth moving far beneath the ground.
It was over in under a minute, a matter of seconds. Seconds that felt very long. As soon as it was over I quickly gathered my things and set out for my daughter’s school. I gathered a folder I needed for a later meeting and I brought my computer– which I certainly didn’t need but I seemed to want to take one thing in case of later, unfolding disaster. I took it for some reason that I can only explain by saying that it contains parts of my writing, parts of my communication with friends and family and some of my photos all gathered into one place.
I thought of my good friend Lauren who has lived in San Francisco more than 30 years and who is experienced at living through earthquakes and I thought about my Midwest upbringing; I know what you’re supposed to do in case of tornado, but not in the event of an earthquake. Lauren was the first person I called after reaching my partner and as I drove to school to get my daughter. I didn’t reach her, but later she said, with experience at this, “so tell me your story” and asked exactly what I did and about the duration of it and, she put it this way, “first the ground and building shakes and then it stops. And then just you shake.”
Minutes after it was over, and after turning on the news but only long enough to hear them say it was an earthquake (the news reporters sounded as baffled as I was)– I drove to my daughter’s school without waiting for text message, robo-call or any of the rest of it. I just wanted to get there. The older young people were out front on the plaza and the younger (of which my daughter is one) were out on the field. I was so glad to see my daughter’s good face in the far corner of the field as I walked out onto the edge of the field. They were being dismissed one by one as parents made their way through terrible traffic snarls to school. N and I hung around and I let many children use my cell phone and texted a few parents of children I know well to assure their parents that I had laid eyes on their kids who were fine. I was terribly glad that I live walking distance to her school and that I am home right now.
We had no school yesterday but all are back to the regular schedule at our school today. We met with her lead English teacher for this year– on Tuesday at about 3:45 we had a meeting we had planned on the first day of school– less than two hours after the earthquake which now seems both utterly reasonable and terribly funny/odd– to have gone ahead with that meeting. But it was a very good meeting and I hopeful about her year. And after all these years, I am learning some things about being a strong ally and advocate for her.
Sometime in the next several posts I should sit down and write about the earthquake that is happening this week inside of me– which I would rate as just above 6 on the Richter scale (6 and above is a moderate quake)– as today marks one year since I walked out the door of my last job. I am truly at loose ends– about the plan for the months ahead. And since we’re all about measuring and documenting seismic events, at the moment I’ll say for the record that as of today I’m more on the sad/scared side of loose ends than on the excited/optimistic end of the scale.