Saturday, April 05, 2014

Reflections on an Earthquake, Part One

If you're quiet enough to hear it, the beginning of an earthquake often sounds a lot like the low idling of a car engine. Which is why, mid-conversation, you might catch someone raised in a seismic country suddenly stiffening and staring intently into space (which is actually an attempt to block out other senses and attune his ears to ascertain if it is a simply a noisy car passing by or something much more sinister!)

If the noise increases and becomes accompanied by the earth's movement, chances are that person will jerk to his feet and then choose one of two options: (a) freeze and wait, possibly settling back down if the movement passes; or (b) bolt from the room at the speed of sound.

Of course, if the person is strapped in his car and stopped at a streetlight with other vehicles hemming him in, there is only a third option: (c) hold on for a wild ride! It was this option that our family was forced to choose shortly before 9 p.m. on Tuesday night (April 1, 2014) when an 8.2-magnitude earthquake rocked our city of Iquique, Chile.

It is rare that our family will venture to our local free-trade mall (the Zofri mall) on a school night, but this particular day had been full of to-do's and among these was the need to purchase a replacement ink cartridge for our printer. Thus less than an hour before the quake hit, the seven of us had been walking these halls which were captured by someone's video at the moment of the earthquake:

We are so thankful to God for allowing us to have departed the mall when we did, and to have made it just two blocks from home when the earthquake hit. Recently a new stoplight was installed at the corner of Av. Bilbao and Av. Padre Hurtado, which has been a source of some annoyance due to the "tacos" (traffic jams) it causes at certain times of day. It was in one of these that we found ourselves at a standstill, when abruptly all city lights went black. "Whoa ... that was crazy!" was all we managed to say before we felt the world beginning to tilt crazily as our minivan began roughly jolting up and down. The movement was accompanied by the roaring sound of the earth and the raucous rattling of nearby metal gates.

There was no place to move, forward or backward, and as I twisted around in my seat I saw our children's wide-eyed faces staring back at me. The boys' and girls' reactions were almost polar opposites, with the former frozen in shock and the latter teetering on the brink of tears and panic. "Pray, Mommy ... pray!" one daughter cried out and so I did, thanking the Lord that we were all together in this moment and asking for His protection over us and all of our friends.

When the shaking temporarily ceased, it was as though we and the cars around us were awakened from a startled slumber into a confused pause: What next? Motorcycles took off first, winding between stopped vehicles while others began to honk madly. An SUV beside us was one of these, and Pedro directed a sharp reprimand for calm at the driver who seemed ready to cause a traffic accident in her hurry to move. Soon the line inched forward and the logjam broke free.

Within two minutes we reached home in the pitch blackness. Our first discovery pushed one daughter over the edge of tears and frenzy, as we realized the doors to the back patio had opened and our dog Whittaker had escaped.

To be continued ...

Related posts:
Reflections on an Earthquake, Part Five
Reflections on an Earthquake, Part Four
Reflections on an Earthquake, Part Three
Reflections on an Earthquake, Part Two

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