Beings that I'm somewhat of a chronicler of family history, I feel compelled to document for my descendants (who will undoubtedly be reading this blog long after I am gone) where, exactly, I was when the Great East Coast Earthquake of 2011 struck on August 23, 2011.
And that would be RIGHT HERE, on I-279 South, exiting at I-579 South for the Veteran's Bridge, approaching the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh.
(Note to Mom: this photo was actually taken IN APRIL, when I was a passenger in The Husband's car. Like I would actually do something ridiculous like take a photo in an EARTHQUAKE while actually DRIVING, just for the purpose of a blog post. Really, give me some credit here.)
I was singing (loudly) along to what now seems to be a rather all-too-apropos song, "Save Me San Francisco" by Train. ("I've been high, I've been low, I've been yes and I've been oh-hell-no! I've been rock and roll and disco, won't you save me San Francisco? I've been up, I've been down, I've been so damn lost since you're not around ...")
(Actually, I was slightly lost - which is becoming pretty commonplace of late as I try to learn a new city - but I was quickly back on track, thanks to my
At least we didn't move to San Francisco, I thought to myself. They have earthquakes there.
I. SWEAR. TO. GOD. I REALLY DID think to myself, they have earthquakes there.
(Why I can't manage to have these types of random thoughts in connection with, say, winning lottery tickets, is beyond me.) Little did I know that I was living through The Big One RIGHT THEN AND THERE. On a bridge in Pittsburgh, of all places. On which, in my Chevy HHR, I didn't feel a damn thing. (I'm telling ya, I always miss the good shit.)
Driving into the heart of Downtown, I noticed throngs of people standing on street corners, looking skyward. A fire? No, there weren't any fire engines and I didn't hear any. Batman? No, filming of The Dark Knight Rises was over on Sunday. A Tom Cruise sighting?
I couldn't waste much time speculating because I was headed to a meeting. Fortunately, my meeting partner had already called, saying she was running late. I breathed a sigh of relief, as I was too. (Thank you, interminable construction delays.) We laughed, she told me to take my time finding and getting into the hotel, and all was well.
A few minutes later, after I'd valet-parked and was safely ensconced in a spectacular hotel lobby that reminded me of Philadelphia's landmark Bellevue-Stratford, my cell phone rang again. The person I was to meet with was asking if I'd heard there had been an earthquake.
"Here? In PITTSBURGH?!" I exclaimed. Well, that would explain the people milling around on the corners, cell phones pressed to their ears.
It was a 5.9, she said. Maybe we ought to get out of Downtown where buildings could topple on us in a potential aftershock and meet elsewhere. Allrightythen.
By this point, my mother and mother-in-law were
(And yes, I KNOW that some buildings - such as the National Cathedral - sustained significant damage, and that's truly unfortunate. Still, they've got insurance, don't they? Maybe not earthquake insurance, exactly, but at the NATIONAL CATHEDRAL, of all damn places, you could probably make a case that this was truly an ACT OF GOD, for chrissakes.)
The point is, as far we all know, NOBODY DIED or sustained any life-threatening injuries, despite even the National Cathedral damage. Which is why it is OK to joke and laugh over the Great East Coast Earthquake of 2011. In these times in which we live, it's rare that a true, authentic, "where were you when" moment comes along that doesn't involve loss of life or heartbreak or something equally tragic. We're just days away from the 10th anniversary of the biggest such "where were you then?" moment that many of us will hopefully ever live through.
These are unsettling and rocky times in which we live, with fault lines appearing everywhere we step. We're in perpetual OMFG THE SKY IS FALLING mode, as we watch helplessly as lives are lost to crazy weather like this spring's tornadoes. Our finances are in freefall as our retirement savings have been obliterated due to downgrades, the government is going broke, weekly food and fuel bills are into the triple-digits, and our home values are being reduced to the rubble that our McMansions were built on.
Our jobs and our families' safety nets could be pulled out from under us in a New York minute, landing us in financial quicksand. We know that if we step on a crack we'll not only break our Mama's back, but her health insurance (if she still has any) won't cover a fraction of her injuries (and will sue ours).
We all know a perfectly healthy person who suddenly collapsed and died, who wasn't feeling well and who was found dead shortly thereafter. We all know or have heard of someone who had the bad luck to be in the very wrong place at the wrong time. In a major American city, on a regular Friday afternoon, we just had a flash flood that caused a major road to flood over 9 feet within nanoseconds, killing a 72 year old woman on her way home from WORK (which is a disgrace in and of itself, that a 72-year old woman still needs to work) and trapping a 45 year old mom and her 8 and 12 year old daughters in their minivan, where they were later found dead from drowning.
Whose heart doesn't go out to those people in such occasions? Who doesn't think, there for but the grace of God go I? Who doesn't replay the many times they've driven down that same street in a storm?
There's a sense of randomness, of futility, that no matter what we do or whatever precautions we take, our best-laid plans DON'T MATTER because life is too freaky, too random.
Which is why we NEEDED yesterday's Great East Coast Earthquake. Bigtime. We needed some stress humor relief from the everyday gloom and doom, but more importantly, I think we needed something to remind us that we are all connected, online and off, that we still have reasons in this scary and uncertain life to reach out and touch someone, to ask are you OK?
Life is full of way too many fault lines, of quagmires, of disasters at the ready. We need to know that when the earth moves unexpectedly or when the next Rapture is scheduled, someone cares and gives enough of a damn about us to appreciate that we're still standing.
And when we realize that we are still here and we are still standing, and that those we love are too, there's the secure feeling that, for this one day at least, that we'll be OK.
And that, I think, is something well worth smiling and laughing about.
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