When I was about 9, I remember watching a show on TV about living in “disaster zones.” The first city featured was San Francisco. I remember saying “those people are crazy to live there, right on an earthquake fault line.” And then it was the tornado region of the Midwest. Same thing, “what are those people thinking living there?” This was all from the perceived safety of our home on the east coast of Canada, where maybe the most that seemed to happen from a natural disaster standpoint was a bad storm.
Fast forward a couple decades, and there I was, living in San Francisco. It took me a few weeks to get used to the Tuesday noon siren. The first time I heard it, I subtly looked around to see if anyone else in the office building did anything, but they just went around their business. Ah, I soon figured, the earthquake (or tsunami I suppose) siren test.
The siren was just one element in the earthquake preparedness repertoire. The others were creating an emergency kit for our home (for both humans and pets), making sure bookshelves really were anchored to the wall (okay, maybe I skipped that one), having running shoes at the foot of the bed. Oh, and the annual drill at the office (either a welcome break or an annoyance, depending on the day).
Fortunately, I didn’t experience any major quakes. Just the occasional strong shaking. For anyone who has experienced it, you know that an earthquake is an odd sensation. There, you are, watching TV or reading a book, minding your business, and you hear a boom (or at least I did) and it feels like someone has picked up your home and is shaking it back and forth. It also feels like it lasts longer than it does. And it comes out of nowhere.
I’ve now been in Iowa for a year, and I can tell you, it is taking me far longer to get used to tornado watches and warnings compared to settling into earthquake country (yes, I know you’ve had the rare earthquake too, but you know what I mean). The first month we were here, it felt like every day held the possibility of that ominous funnel-cloud. The “beep beep beep” followed by the announcement on the radio. The news-weather alert cut into regularly programmed TV. Not to mention the view out the window. I asked my husband (an Iowa native) over and over “And you got used to this?” Apparently so.
The other day on Facebook, I was having a friendly debate with a new friend in Iowa about what was worse: living in earthquake country or tornado country. To me, you get a certain “ignorance is bliss” with earthquakes – sure, be prepared, but you’re not going to be glued to the TV, or whatever media outlet, to see one tracking across the state. To my friend Mary, it is far better to know what is coming, and with earthquakes (a big one) your walls are more likely to crash in on you. In the end, I (be-grudgingly) agreed with Mary.
So, in the last year we renamed our earthquake kit our tornado kit, and we made sure our new home had a basement room with no windows (haven’t had to run down there yet, knock on wood). And I’ve gotten used to the siren test being on Saturdays.
After all the talk of my youth about “those crazy people,” turns out I am one. First to live in the wonder that is San Francisco, and second to make my home in the heaven-on-earth land of Iowa.