I pulled out from the company's parking lot one afternoon and merged into the traffic. I stopped at the light behind some cars and thought to myself what I could make for dinner that night. All of a sudden the car started to rock as if it were a boat on choppy water - very choppy water. I was trying to hold on while wondering if I should get out of the car - not that I could. It just felt dangerous to stay in a car that was acting crazy. All I could do was holding on the steering wheel as if I were riding the mechanical bull.
It felt like forever before it was finally over. All the traffic lights were dead. Cars stayed on the road, and nobody moved. Two cars ahead of me the female driver got out of her car, and ran to the car behind her. She cried, "Oh my God! What was that?!" At this time it gradually dawned on me: we just had a major earthquake.
The normally twenty-minute drive home took me an hour and half. Every intersection was stop-and-go, one car at a time. The speed was reduced to that of a snail. I gripped the steering wheel with my white-knuckled fingers, and bit my lips to fight back tears. The kids - are they all right? They are home alone. Are they hurt? Is the house still there? Are they being buried in the rubbles? I forced myself not to imagine the worst. The houses along the road were still standing. I had some hope. There were no fires as far as I could see. The kids could be just fine.
I got home at last and everything seemed "normal." I looked at the kids and I had a strange feeling of having been away for a month. They looked the same, and yet different. The kids told me how they hid under the dining table and finished their homework there - thinking there might be another one coming. A plant was toppled over and left some dirt on the carpet. Everything was fine. We were safe.
Until this day I couldn't remember what I did for the rest of the evening. It was completely blank. The only thing I remember was crying silently in the office the next day. I couldn't work at all. The boss finally told us to go home. It was futile to tell anyone to concentrate on work. I don't remember what I did after going home either. Somehow my memories in those time periods were completely erased.
I grew up in an earthquake country. Hurricanes and earthquakes were common events. Nobody showed any emotions toward them. It was life - deal with it. My reaction to earthquakes used to be exactly like that of the kids - that was frightening and fun! Now back to homework.
My life and my feelings for earthquakes are completely different now. I used to be strong. I could deal with disasters with no problems. The long drive home that afternoon twenty years ago changed me forever.