Being in an earthquake

Yet another devastating earthquake has struck the world, this time in a region that is already in chaos.

Before moving to Japan, I had no idea what it was like to be in an earthquake, and I think a lot of people in the world have no idea, so I thought I’d briefly share my own experiences to help those with no experience better picture the nightmare.

I think I’ve mentioned it before in previous entries, but try to picture yourself on a suspension bridge. Some playgrounds have them for kids to walk across and squeal with delight as the bridge shakes and rocks back and forth. So maybe picture yourself on one of those bridges right in the middle.

Now picture several adults suddenly grabbing the edges of that bridge and pushing that bridge back and forth like they’re trying to work through their aggression. They’re shaking it to the point you think “I want to get off this thing right now,” but it’s shaking so much you can’t even move anymore.

That’s one type of earthquake sensation I’ve experienced.

Another is standing on a platform at a train station only to have the ground rumble as a massive train suddenly thunders past. It’s like you can hear the earth grinding against itself as it moves. Right after the massive earthquake of 2011 in Japan, I moved to an apartment on the first floor right outside a busy road, and every time a bus rolled past, the floor of my apartment would rumble, and for the first year or so I swore another earthquake was starting up each time.

Another type I’ve experienced is one that felt like suddenly being thrown onto a boat that was at the mercy of some fairly high waves. So much so I thought maybe my eyes were deceiving me because I was looking at my apartment rather than the inside of a boat.

Now imagine being in a building that’s not meant for this type of shaking, and it’s woken you up in the middle of the night, in a place that apparently hasn’t experienced an earthquake like this in about 200 years. All the lights have gone off everywhere, too, just to make reality that much more distorted for you.

I’ve had friends say they want to experience an earthquake just once “for the fun of it”, and I can understand the thrill of the earth suddenly but lightly moving for a few seconds before settling again, but after the 2011 earthquake, now even the slightest movement has me on edge that the next big one is about to happen.

For the people living in Turkey and Syria right now having survived this nightmare so far, they might not know if the “big one” has hit yet or not. Every tremor is going to make a lot of them wonder if it’s an aftershock or the build up to another, stronger earthquake. It’s easy to look back later and sort the chaos out, but in the moment, you have no idea what’s happening, and you realize how much of your survival isn’t in your hands anymore.

Time Magazine has helpfully made a list of all the ways in which you can help the survivors. If you can, please donate.