October 27 was one of those “Where were you when …?” dates we will talk about for years, like JFK’s assassination and the Twin Towers’ collapse.
I was alone, sitting at my computer on an office chair with rollers and a padded seat, TV remote in hand, scanning Channel 11 for a decent program or movie to watch, when I thought I felt my chair seat begin rocking gently, side to side.
The motion intensified. Was I having a heart attack? Or a stroke? Like a jumbo jet pilot reviewing his console’s toggles and switches before takeoff, I ran a mental check: no dizziness; no rainbow vision; no heart palpitations.
Then I felt my chair roll from side to side as much as two to three inches.
“Ah ha!”, I wondered, “can this be an earthquake?”
When the 12 ounce, 16” long Zwilling J. A. Henckels knife sharpener hanging above the kitchen counter began scratching the wall as it swung in a six inch arc, I concluded my hunch was correct. My fright level spiked like a thermometer held over a flaming match. If I had been astride a saddle, I would have clutched the horn and the horse.
The door to the basement is always open when the woodstove is heating. I could hear wood beams shifting like an eight-year-old desperate for a washroom. Would the brick chimney crack? Crumble? Should I watch for smoke to come boiling up? What if a natural gas pipe snapped, or a plumbing connection gave way?
The rocking motion kept up for a good three minutes, with one short pause in the middle. I didn’t attempt to stand up. Reportedly others did. Some nearly toppled off their feet. Others felt nauseous. Finally, creaking in the basement stopped. I crept down to check as best I could, given I’m neither a carpenter nor a stone mason. All seemed intact.
Back upstairs, I tried to phone family, first on the mobile unit which rang once, before clicking off, then on the wall phone. It was dead.
My next move was to email family in other provinces so they wouldn’t worry about my welfare, though given the hour, I knew some of them would already be gone to bed.
At 8:28 p.m. The Province emailed a news alert proclaiming we had experienced a 7.7 magnitude earthquake. I pasted The Province’s bulletin into my email and sent it off at 8:40 p.m.
Before my email reached Saskatchewan, a neighbour on his way to hockey pounded on my door to ask if everything here was okay. I assured him it was.
As soon as telephone service was restored, my family checked on each other. For the rest of the evening, I was glued to CBC TV as Ian Hanomansing spoke with area residents relating their experiences with the rumble. Folks had heeded warnings and moved to higher ground. As a precaution, the Terrace arena closed. “No hockey for you!”
What caught my attention was Hanomansing saying when he reported in Kobe, Japan after their 6.8 magnitude earthquake in 1995, in a sea of demolished buildings one block of houses stood intact, all built from B.C. lumber to B.C. code. I relaxed a tad about my basement creaks as qualified construction personnel had built this house.
Following such a harrowing evening, I expected to sleep poorly, and to be awakened by aftershocks of nearly the same magnitude. To be ready to escape the house if necessary, I slept in my day clothes. Inexplicably, I had my most restful sleep in weeks.
I’ve since noticed my desktop computer had swivelled and no longer sat parallel to the desk. Many of the books on my bookshelves had hitched forward an inch or more. Yet tall stacks of magazines waiting to be re-shelved since painting my kitchen did not topple or even fan out.