The picture above was taken at 6:55PM last night, local time here in Salinas. I stepped out on our balcony and took a quick picture, just to see if it would capture the colors, which were truly spectacular. Three minutes later, 210 miles away and 12 miles down, a sudden shift happened.
Have you ever been to Disney World or Universal Studios, and taken one of the earthquake rides? They simulate the shaking; things slide towards you or tower over you ominously, maybe a fireball or a burst of water from a simulated fire plug. All very exciting, and you feel like wow, so THAT’S what an earthquake is like.
What they cannot simulate, is what is going on in your head when it’s the real thing.
Let me be clear, I’m not going to whine here about what an ordeal we’ve been through. We were actually very lucky in this area. As you can see from the picture at the end of this article taken this morning, everything here is fine. Salinas and the Santa Elena peninsula sustained very little damage, we never lost lights, water, gas – or even Internet. When we went to bed last night, we could still hear music playing in the local clubs. Our hearts go out to the people who were closer to this event and suffered greatly. We have friends in Manta we still have not heard from, although we have heard from others that they were ok, just unable to communicate to the outside world. No, we were very lucky here, just to be scared for a few minutes.
But it was still a remarkable experience. A 7.8 earthquake, even from 200+ miles away, is very frightening.
I had just taken that picture, and asked Rita if she wanted to go for our evening walk. She told me to go ahead without her, but I decided to just use the exercise bike later on rather than walk without her. I’m glad I did, I can’t imagine if we had not been together for the next few minutes.
We were sitting on the couch, about to watch another Game of Thrones episode (we are going through all of the previous ones to refresh our memories for the new season), when we felt an odd side to side vibration. “Now that’s an earthquake”, I said. There have been a few times the past year or so when Rita said she felt something, but I didn’t. Definitely felt that. I expected it to fade, but it gradually got stronger. Soon the lamp shades started to shake back and forth, things on the shelves began to dance and rattle, and still the side to side motion was getting stronger. The sway on the 19th floor was really something, it felt like it was WAY more movement than the building should be able to make.
We heard things falling, and Rita kept saying “Jim!”, like she wanted me to make it stop. Of course, there was nothing to do but wait. It’s an interesting feeling, to be sitting on the couch, 200 feet up, feeling the shaking get stronger and stronger, watching the things around you move, and knowing there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. All I could do was wait and hope I didn’t hear the massive crack of a major part of the structure give way, or feel the building start to slip irrevocably into a fall to either side. It is an intense and interesting feeling, knowing that you may very well die at any moment, and all you can do is wait and see if you are going to live or not.
That part was not on the Disney ride.
After what seemed like a very long time, but seismic stations say was about two minutes, the shaking stopped, and the building gradually stopped swaying. Like I said, we never lost power or Internet, so Rita asked me to see what we should be doing. Turns out, unless you are at the epicenter, a high floor in a tall modern building is the safest place. We were still on adrenaline highs, and Rita was saying that it was starting again every few minutes. My hands were shaking, and I felt pretty disoriented, but I was able to point out to her that she could just look at the water in her glass. If it was still, then the building was not shaking. Thank you, Jurassic Park!
We had very little damage. In spite of hearing things falling, the only thing we found on the floor was a picture of my grandson that had been leaning against a wall on a shelf. We have some cracks in the concrete walls, but they are all very small and easily fixed. We also have a lot of floor tiles that developed cracks, all lined up in more or less the same direction. In fact, after we checked in with friends and family, we still watched an episode of GoT before bed.
It has been interesting looking at the ways people react to a brush with disaster. There are those whose first thought was to check on others; some who just wanted to flee; and some who got caught up in their own drama. Not making judgements here, or saying one reaction is “better” than another – just saying that it is under stress that you can discover interesting things about yourself.
For Rita and I, I feel like we had each other and we were together, and if it was the end we wouldn’t be happy about it, but we would at least know that we had love and each other. And now we still have each other, and our lives together and love for each other is more precious than ever.
So it’s another day, a beautiful day here in Salinas. We’ve let family and friends know not to worry about us, and to save their concern for those closer to the epicenter and less fortunate than us.