Donna O'Donnell Figurski's Blog

It's All About Me!

Musings by Donna #31 The Day the Earth Shook

On August 23, 2011 the Earth shook. It shakes a lot. I know that. It shakes in California all the time. It shook in Haiti (7.0) and Chili (8.8) in 2010. In March of 2011, it shook Japan with a magnitude of 8.9. Those are quakes most of the world will remember for a very long time. Japan continues to experience significant aftershocks so many months later. Haiti is still digging out from under its devastation with people still homeless.

The quake yesterday, which rocked much of my world, centered in Virgina with a magnitude of 5.8. It had folks buzzing from Maine to Georgia – covering most of the eastern seaboard. It was felt as far west as Pittsburgh and Erie, PA. Some friends and family were all aflutter about it. Buildings in New York City were evacuated – only miles from me. But  I sat at my desk and I felt not a thing. And that’s not bad. It rattled the Hammer Building at Columbia where David was in his office meeting with a student. She felt it. He did not. She said his bookshelves swayed and the leaves on his sheflera wiggled. Maybe David didn’t feel it because his Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) left him balance-challenged. His world is always shaky. I don’t know what my excuse was. Maybe I was so intent on my writing, but it surely did not rock my world.

One friend from Erie said of the earthquake, “I can cross that one off of my bucket list.” But I don’t even want it on my bucket list. That’s one experience I can forego. I’ve actually felt some earth moving under my feet – and that’s enough. If I never feel another earthquake, that would be fine with me.

I remember the one we had in New Jersey in 1985. It was the year we moved to our new house. In the dark of night, my bed began to shake. Without a thought I threw my arm across David and said, “We’re in an earthquake.” We quickly jumped out of bed to investigate and met both wide-eyed children, Kiersten (15) and Jared (10), in the hallway. At first David discounted my theory, as the scientist in him tried to figure out the problem. He thought, perhaps, the water heater had blown. He quickly discounted that theory as we stared at all the lights popping on in our neighbors’ houses up and down the street. Definitely an earthquake!

The only time I ever thought about earthquakes was when I lived in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California, twenty miles north of San Diego. Supposedly the California coast has them there all the time – little quivers, but I rarely felt anything. Then one night – late at night – around 11:30 or 12:00am, the phone rang. Never a good omen! Nothing good ever comes of an unexpected late-night phone call.

It was my mother, who lived in Phoenix, Arizona with an up-to-date news report from a famous seer who was a guest on the Johnnie Carson Show. The seer predicted a massive earthquake for California for the very next day. He said a large portion of the state would break off and destroy a hefty portion of California. My mother encouraged us to pack up the kids, jump in the car, and drive through the night to Phoenix, which I supposed was going to be the new oceanfront. I didn’t think it was such a bad idea, but David had a million excuses why not to. The first being he had experiments brewing at the lab. So the next morning David went off to lab, Kiersten went to 1st grade, and Jared and I stayed home. But, I made plans. At the first tremor, I would grab Jared and crawl under the chrome and formica kitchen table. It was strong. When the shaking stopped, I would drive to Kiersten’s school about a mile away and head for higher ground. I had it all calmly planned out!  Of course, I never entered into the equation the mass panic and pandemonium that would have occurred if the earthquake had actually happened. It didn’t. California is still, to this day, in one piece; though it has been shaken around a lot in the many years that have passed.

I made a phone call to my mother after that and told her to please never, ever inform me of another earthquake alert. I was terrified. I told her I did not want to know even if she had direct information from an all-powerful source. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather live in ignorance – at least about earthquakes.

Did you know that just in the last seven days there have been 219 earthquakes in the world. USGS If you click on the link, don’t be surprised to find a different number. Since I began writing this post four hours ago, two more earthquakes have been reported.

Our Earth is an amazing planet, but it is a shaky planet. So keep your feet on the ground and stay steady.

(Clip Art compliments of


August 24, 2011 - Posted by | Musings by Donna

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