It happened during the mid-term exam period, my second year of university. I was writing my 5th exam in two days and I could feel a sense of lightness and relief washing over me as I inked the last sentence of my essay and closed the exam booklet. As I handed it it, my professor asked to speak with me privately.
"Is this your *last* exam?" she asked. I nodded. She put a steadying hand on my shoulder. "Go home and phone your family, hon. There's been an earthquake in California."
I ran back to my residence, heart pounding, tears streaming down my face. As I stepped into my room, I flipped the morning paper I'd tossed aside hours earlier and there it was, in bold headlines: "Devastating Earthquake Hits California". I hadn't seen it - I generally ignore the news, especially during exam periods.
I spent the next six hours frantically trying to phone my brother and my sisters in Crescent City. I still remember how frustrating it was, worrying and trying to get through the busy circuits.
I still have family in California, Hawaii and Japan. So you might think that I had a really stressful day today, but actually it was quite normal. You see, I still ignore the news most of the time. I usually don't even check the headlines in the morning. I didn't this morning.
In fact, feeling weary of the internet after the dramatics of the week, I didn't even check blogs or Twitter. I practiced the Primary Series. Then I wrote my morning pages and opened up a book.
At noon, I walked over to the private school to teach a class. I wasn't feeling up to cooking, so I treated myself to lunch opting, ironically, for sushi. That's when I heard the servers talking about 'the earthquake' and realised something was amiss. I pulled out my iPad and logged on to Twitter. A friend had just tweeted about 'devastation in Crescent City, CA'.
My heart dropped into my stomach.
So what did I do? I logged into Facebook, of course! I checked the pages of each of my siblings, plus my neices and nephews and stepmother. I was reassured by their statuses that everyone was safe. My sister says that her town is still evacuated. My niece is travelling. My other sister in Hawaii is out partying (probably) and my brother is *not* out on his boat.
I can't believe I'm saying this but here it is: THANK GOD FOR FACEBOOK. The site was down for a span today. I wouldn't be surprised if it's because so many people were checking on loved ones, like I was.
Next, I followed the links to the earthquake and tsunami footage in Japan. I felt, like many of you, helpless and awed and sad. I grew up on the sea, on a small sailboat, and few things conjure up more terror in me than tsunamis (hurricanes take a close second). I'm very familiar with civil alert sirens and evacuations.
My heart is breaking for all of those who lost homes and loved ones today. Twenty years after moving away from the coast, natural disasters like this still feel like a 'near-miss', like it could have been me. I feel incredibly blessed to be sitting here in my small home, cooking rice, walking my dog, following the rounds of a normal life.
I'm so lucky. My hopes and prayers are with those who weren't as lucky today.
Update: It was 'closer to home' than I thought. The marina I lived in as a child was hard-hit by the Tsunami. Docks broke free, 200 boats are reported damaged. Viewing the footage was eerie.
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