The morning quake

By now the earthquake that rattled Maryland this morning is old news. It got the same coverage that a snow squall in Las Vegas or LA receives — sound bites and quotes from awe struck residents who’ve never seen a flake of snow, or in this case, haven’t felt the earth move except on a subway platform.

One local TV anchor was visibly rattled. She kept telling viewers that she was “freaked out,” even as her sidekick admitted that she didn’t feel a thing.

I’ve been in two earthquakes — the first in my grandparent’s beach house in California. It was strong enough to rattle the quake-proof glass in the windows. Then a few years ago, Martin and I sat through a tremor in Arequipa, Peru that shook the restaurant, right down to our beer glasses. We were too buzzed to care.

This morning I was up with Brynn when a low rumbling burbled from below and the house let go a long shiver. My first illogical thought: the furnace was going to explode… even though it’s turned off in the summer. Illogical thought #2: a low-flying jet was about to crash.

Maisie did not reassure me. She gave me her thunderstorm stare that plainly says: “This is it. We are all going to die.” I clutched Brynn, not sure if I should flee the exploding furnace or duck a crashing plane.

Martin awoke and wondered if it was thunder. It lasted too long, I told him, but we went outside and squinted in the bare dawn at a clear sky. All around us it was quiet and calm. Just the occasional whoosh of an early morning commuter.

Maybe it was some kind of explosion, he said. Or….an earthquake.

As soon as Martin said it, I knew he was right. We went back in and switched on the local news.

It was a 3.6 quake. Not even strong enough to knock a tree down.

But with enough physical and audible presence to scare me, and momentarily remind us of how small and powerless we really are.