On Earthquakes

Earthquake hits Northern Japan. Magnitude 8.0 is pretty strong, but with the epicenter of the quake located so far below the surface, there seems to have been less injury and damage to Hokkaido than I thought there would be.

I was deadly scared of earthquakes as a child, partly owing to the influence of Superman, the Movie. Seeing the planet Krypton breaking up, and later, Lois Lane’s car falling into that crack in the ground, and that school bus careening off the Golden Gate Bridge — it was a bit much for an impressionable little first-grader living in San Francisco. I was constantly afraid of cracks opening up in the earth and swallowing me alive. Having a home near the airport, with all the low bass rumbling that entailed, did not help. And neither did that 6.2 tremor in 1984. Nor all that talk about “The Big One.” Even years later, the 1990 Luzon earthquake was more frightening to me than I thought it should have been to a high-schooler, and I was distinctly annoyed at myself that my knees continued to shake long after the ground had stopped.

Another earthquake that left an impression on me was the Alaska earthquake of 1964, a whopping 9.2’er. No, I did not experience it firsthand, as I had yet to be born, but I had read a personal account of the quake and the ensuing landslides in one of our texts for Grade School English reading class. Having no visuals, the story had less impact on me than the Superman Movie, but I am still floored whenever I see photos of the damage caused. It was precisely that kind of destruction — houses tossed into huge chasms like toys, huge masses of land shifting and rising and sinking — which had me cowering as a child, wondering if our house would be next.

Last time I was in a major earthquake was in December 1999. It jolted me out of bed, and, quite forgetting to grab a flashlight or any other supplies, I managed to get halfway out of my Parañaque apartment before the lights went out. Fortunately the shaking stopped around the same time, the lights came back on, and nothing had been damaged. I don’t think I was quite as paralyzed with fear as I had been in my Superman-trauma days.

For now, I live in a place with relatively little earthquake history, and I think I should be able to handle a major earthquake with a fair amount of calm. (We’ll see if that still applies while the brick walls come a-tumbling down. Knock on wood.)

And though the ground may move beneath my feet, literally or proverbially, I pray yet that the kingdom within my soul be not shaken. I know that I have not refused him whose voice shook the earth.


  1. Raffy says:

    Hellooo from San Francisco, California! No, we still haven’t fallen into the Pacific.

    I agree with the whole growing up in fear thing with living in the Philippines; being directly on the “Ring of Fire” doesn’t help any either. I remember the 1990 Earthquake too: Seeing the 30-foot pylons on top of the construction area of the Millenium on Shaw Boulevard sway like grass reeds in the wind still hasn’t left my mind. Seeing all the officeworkers fleeing in panic from their buildings was also pretty intense.

    So far, “The Big One” is the only thing keeping me from being firmly convinced with staying in California indefinitely. Then again, would I rather contend with the blizzards, floods, and tornadoes everywhere else?