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Seismic in Seattle


Fear struck my heart as I listened to the newsbreak at 11:00 as I went to the Post Office for the mail. "A 7 point earthquake rocks Seattle, Sea-Tac Airport closed."

Seattle? I must have misheard the announcement. Seattle doesn't have earthquakes. That's a California phenomenon.

Back home I turned on the TV News coverage, and sure enough it was Seattle! People were caught in the Space Needle at the old Worlds Fair Grounds ... Sea-Tac control tower's windows were blown out and the runway was buckled as aircraft controllers tried desperately to re-route aircraft scheduled for landings and keep all the planes in the sky. The dome of the capitol in Olympia was cracked and the offices were evactuated. Gas mains were ruptured, fires broke out and the streets were littered with wrecked cars, broken glass, and the remains of ancient brick facades that had fallen off old buildings in the downtown area. One man had died of a heart attack as a result of the quake.

Fear gripped me as adrenalin coursed through my veins.

I ran to the phone to call Chrissy who lived just east of the epicenter of the quake. Alex'sjob took him to the airport daily. My vivid imagination pictured his truck squashed in the parking garage, with no way out!

As I picked up the phone to call I noticed I had a message on the answering machine and stopped to play it. It was Chrissy.

"Gramma ... there's been a 7. Earthquake here and I can't get ahold of mom. I can't even reach Taysia's school to see if they are all right. I'm o.k. here ... but I'm scared to pieces! I just want to flee away someplace safe!"

I flashed back on the San Fernando Valley earthquake of 1993. Chrissy was visiting here and was sound asleep in the Murphy bed. She screamed and we came running! She was in near hysterics, never having experienced anything like it before and we were nearly 100 miles away from the epicenter! We comforted her then and she soon calmed down, but she saw the devastation as we watched the news coverage. "I wanna call my mom!"

Her voice was so quivery on the tape recorder. I played it again and again. I wanted to comfort her at this very moment! She was far, far from family now. Her in-laws, Cory and Scott had moved from Washington to North Carolina. Her mom was in Phoenix and we were in Cardiff by the Sea. Taysia was off to school and Alex was at work delivering to Sea-Tac Airport. She must just be desolate.

From that time on, I was dialing Seattle to no avail and watching round the clock news coverage. I hit the re-dial button on the phone. Operator kept breaking in announcing to me that "All the lines to Seattle are in overload, due to the earthquake." Like I didn't know!

I wrote e-mails to her:


I just got home from errands. While I was out I heard Seattle had an earthquake. Now I'm getting it on the news.

Now, I heard your message on the phone after I was just trying to call you. What a comfort to hear your voice! PTL! I hope that Alex was not at the airport making deliveries when it happened!

I can't get through on the phone and don't even know if you are one of the 70,000 knocked out of power. Hope this gets through!

Grampa is at your Mom's. They have not e-mailed me for 24 hours, so PC must be down or something. I hope Grampa didn't have another heart attack. Surely she would let me know that by phone.

I'm glad you're o.k. I prayed immediately when I heard. I remember how scared you were here once when an earthquake happened in L.A.

Love your Gramma

I watched the clock and prayed. I thought surely Taysia would be home by 3:00 and I would hear something. The phone didn't ring and there was no e-mail. It finally dawned on me that her e-mail modem was by telephone. If the Seattle lines were in overload from the earthquake, then e-mail wasn't going to get out either.

At 6:30 p.m., I got an e-mail from her:


No damage on our mobile home, but it felt like it was going to split in two!

Love you. Chrissy

Later on I received more detail:


Alex WAS at the airport loading up his truck, had been out of the elevator maybe 5 mins when it hit. It's just as scary to be outside, seeing everything sway, as it is inside.

Taysia did good at school, they had the kids duck and cover under the tables and nobody was hurt. She wasn't even frightened one bit, she said it felt like a roller coaster- as if she had ever been on one! My nerves are better now but I was a mess...just wanted to flee!!

love, chrissy

Taysia's description, when she got home from school, brought back memories of "Duck and Cover" from when my own children were in elementary school. Two generations of us had grown up in Southern California earthquake country. But the illustration for children that "It's just like going on a roller coaster," was new to me. How thoughtful of Taysia's teacher to calm the children's fears in this way. Instead of that sick feeling in the pit of the stomach that most adults feel during an earthquake, she likened it to a happy occasion of a fun ride on a roller coaster.

Taysia was too young to know what an earthquake really was, but the roller coaster illustration worked for now. It had calmed the fears of a whole classroom of first graders.

I chuckled the rest of the evening as I told friends about Taysia saying that the Seattle earthquake was like riding a roller coaster ... and she'd never even been on one!

Oh, to have the innocent, quiet acceptance of a child again!

The next time I see our ceiling fan in the family room rock back and forth from a tremor deep inside the earth, I'll hear Taysia's cute little voice saying "Stay calm, Gramma, it's just like riding a roller coaster!"

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