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It’s The End of the World As We Know It April 4, 2010

Posted by alwaysjan in Personal, Teaching, Worth Knowing.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

A lot of my third graders have asked me if it’s true that the world is going to end in 2012.  I tell them, “The world will end when I say it will.”  They seem relieved.  To them I’m the Oracle of Delphi.  I tell my students that the world was supposed going to end so many times in my lifetime that I’ve lost track. “And I’m still here!” I announce, almost giddily.

To think that all this hubbub about the world ending is because those wacky ancient Mayans were too shortsighted to carve a calendar past the year 2012.  Sort of like my husband and I not planning for our financial future when we were having so much fun back in NYC during the ’80s.

The above map is from USGS shows just how fractured the Earth is.  Imagine if it took into account the global economic climate?  Yikes!

Several weeks ago we had an earthquake drill at school.  An announcement came over the PA informing us that, “the earthquake has begun.”  My students dutifully ducked and covered under their desks stifling giggles. Someone always farts. More giggles.  Then we marched single file out onto the field. If only Mother Nature would actually announce upcoming attractions over the school PA.  Sigh.  Hey, I take this stuff seriously.

My husband and I moved back to California just in time to experience the Northridge Earthquake in 1994. We scrambled out of bed and ran for the doorway.  I stood there in the dark screaming for my sons, who swear that they would have slept through the entire ordeal if my screaming hadn’t awakened them. We lived in a second floor apartment in a masonry building built in the 1920s. As we stood there listening to the sound of glass breaking, I could feel a wave roll under the hardwood floor as though we were riding a giant ocean wave. Never have I felt such power. Never have I felt so scared.

As soon as the shaking stopped, we ran outside and went across the street to an open field in front of Beverly Hills High School. People were drawn by the safety of a large open space. After a few minutes, I realized we weren’t going to back to bed anytime soon.  I told my husband as long as he was running back into our apartment to get a radio, he might as well get me my morning Coke. I’ve got my priorities straight.

We stood there with our bewildered neighbors, in various stages of undress, trying to guess the magnitude. On the horizon, huge explosions of blue light pierced the night sky as tranformers around the city blew out. It was surreal. My husband returned with my Coke.  While he was in our apartment, my parents had called from Omaha. They were watching CNN.  We learned the magnitude was close to a 7.  (Later it was downgraded to a 6.6.)

We were lucky. The living room plaster cracked and the TV was tossed ten feet across the room. It left dents in the wood floor where it landed.  It could have been so much worse. We invested in straps for the bookshelves and wax that held everything in place, so you could just dust around it. Two weeks after the earthquake, we were still all sleeping in one bed. I wore my clothes to bed and slept with my glasses on. That’s how big of an impression the earthquake left on me.

Time passed. We bought a house and paid to bolt the foundation with a cash advance on our credit card. Our house is made of wood. If this was a story about the Three Little Pigs, the smart pig would be the one living in a house made of wood – that’s the way to go in Earthquake Country. We didn’t bolt the bookshelves because they were built-ins.  We told ourselves that our house, which was built in 1910, had weathered almost a century of earthquakes. The chimney is in perfect condition. We lost the earthquake wax. This was a period of inactivity on our part accompanied by seismic inactivity on Mother Nature’s. The earthquakes in Haiti and Chili have been a clarion call. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

Today I was doing report cards online when my desk began swaying.  A slow gentle rocking that made everything in the room seem like it needed to be screwed in tighter. A creaky boat kind of feeling. I ran outside where my neighbor and my husband were talking.  They hadn’t felt it, but our neighbor told me to google the USGS.  I learned the swaying I felt was from a 7.2 earthquake in Calexico. In case you didn’t live in California or on the Ring of Fire, that’s definitely a Mama Bear-size quake. I’ve already double checked to make sure the flashlight is next to the bed.

I’m counting down the days until Spring Break, but not until 2012. I’m more inclined to think that it’s more likely that the Earth “as we know it” will end. And to be honest, I’m not sure that’s necessarily a bad thing.  Hard times have already forced people to focus on what’s really important in life.  And it sure isn’t more stuff that you can’t even move now on eBay.  Just a thought. Enjoy Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire and REM’s It’s the End of the World as We Know It. Two of my all-time favorite songs.


1. Ed Darrell - April 5, 2010

You hadn’t heard about the earthquake in Mexico when you wrote this, I wager.


Good stories. I was working a project in Los Angeles with Ernst & Young during the Northridge quake and weeks after. I was astounded at how little damage one would see just driving around town, unless you knew where to go and where to look.

Disasters are often like that.

Ed – I actually started the post weeks ago. Then we had an earthquake here in the middle of the night. I would have slept through that one if my husband hadn’t of jumped out of bed. That was only two days after the earthquake drill at school, which most of my students felt. Yesterday I was tooling through half-finished posts when I felt the earthquake in Calexico. I decided it might be nice to finish the post before the end of the world. >wink< Thanks for the link to the BBC. I have the BBC on my blogroll, as the quality of news is so high. Jan


2. Catherine Sherman - April 5, 2010

Ha, ha. The oracle of Delphi. Well, you are from Omaha, where that other Oracle — Warren Buffett — hails. I’d wondered whether you felt the tremors. Glad it passed gently in your neighborhood. I haven’t told Laura that she missed an earthquake by returning here to tornado country. (Although the last time I was in the neighborhood of a tornado was in January in Huntington Beach…) My aunt in Carlsbad, California, emailed me last night and didn’t mention the earthquake, so possibly she just thought the shaking was one of her own tremors. I have some of those myself.

Cathy – Since I happened to be sitting in front of my computer (what else is new?!), I was in the perfect situation to feel it. My husband was standing out back on the deck talking with a friend and didn’t feel a thing. It’s funny cause thought I grew up in Tornado Alley, I’ve never seen a tornado. But I spent a lot of time huddled in the southwest corner of the basement. Jan


3. shoutabyss - April 5, 2010

I hear a lot of people talking about “end times” these days. Some say they can’t wait, that they want the events described in Revelation as soon as possible.

Is there any evidence that the earth is experiencing significant events like earthquakes and eruptions at an unusual or increasing rate? Also, I hear solar flares may disrupt our precious computers at some point. We’ll really see Chicken Little then. 🙂

It’s a little bit sad to hear third graders aping that 2012 nonsense just because it is something they’ve heard. I think they put too much faith in adults.


4. Bev from england - April 6, 2010

We have the occaisional earthquake in england…every now n then theres a barely felt shake….. a year or 2 ago we had a quake bad enough to wake me from sleep …it was v disorientating and over before it began really. That was the worst ive experienced…..i just cant imagine it for those who experience worse…it sounds so frightening….

then i read about someone living in tornado country….we rarely have a small tornado in england….

Im so glad I live here !


Bev – In England, you just have rain! (I had no idea you felt earthquakes there – interesting.) I grew up with tornados, but usually there’s some warning. When the air was really still, my mother would say, “Feels like tornado weather.” Jan


5. Janelle - April 13, 2010

Doug does a great cover of “Ring of Fire.” Maybe we’ll have to put in on YouTube for you. I remember my first earthquake too. They leave an impression. The floor picked up my bed and then sat it down and Doug watched our desk float above him for a few minutes. Fortunately it wasn’t nearly as damaging or as scary as what you experienced. If we go from a natural disaster it’s more likely that Yellowstone has finally blown up again. We have a local cult here that believed the world was going to end in 1996. Unfortunately for them, it didn’t, because they sold all their earthly possessions to the church. Damn.


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